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Greetings Everyone,

I thought it might be interesting to start a discussion on transformational leadership (Burns, Bass, Avolio). I've read tons of stuff on this intriguing topic. In fact I did my doctoral dissertation looking at transformational leadership characteristics in slected religious educators. However, when reading some authors they consider this form of leadership to be highly manipulative. I have found it to be highly useful and affirming with those I lead.

So, what do you all think.

Thanks,

Dave

Mark's picture

Sure! Let's go.

Mark

jhack's picture

Dave,

Could you provide an elevator summary of the topic for those of us not familiar with it? Maybe a web site URL with a good overview... &or the best book to read first?

Thanks,

John

PattiBarcroft's picture

Dave,

I love the topic. Based upon my reading and personal growth, transformational leadership occurs when the leader takes on the challenge of transforming Self, first. I am not familiar with the names you have included but two of my favorite books on the topic are by Robert Quinn. I've noted them in the books forum. The Arbinger Group addresses these matters as well, in the book Leadership and Self-Deception.

My understanding of transformation leadership as it is defined in "Building the bridge as you walk on it", is stepping outside of our comfort zones, becoming internally directed, results centered and other focused. Transparency and authenticity are at the core transformational leadership. For me it comes down to working in the moment, based in reality, on a foundation of gratitude.

You have obviously spent a fair amount of time studying the subject. Please share what you think. I am curious about your experience with the religious educators. I work in a large church and private school and would love to see more of this topic embraced by our staff.

Patti

cwatine's picture

Great subject !

Here are the definitions of Transformational leadership, and what seems to be its opposite : Transactional leadership.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transformational_leadership
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transactional_leadership

I am not sure I get it exactly. So I hope the following words are not out-of-the-subject !

Transformational seems to induce a more profound change in the personality, when Transactional looks more like a clear contract between the leader and his directs (on a set of behavioral rules).
The first one plays on intrisic motivators, when the second one plays on extrinsic motivators.

I would guess MT are more on the Transactional side, and Transformational has a greater chance to be considered as manipulation ?

Maybe is it cultural, but I would naturally be VERY cautious about transformational leadership ! Why ? Because I don't need to control the intrisic nature of my employees, I just need them to agree upon a comon set of behaviour that allow a good team spirit. We are a company, we are no Church.

At the same time, I am aware that consistently acting on someone's behaviour will of course end up influencing his personality a little bit ... Just like any interation.

Cédric.

PattiBarcroft's picture

Cédric,

In my opinion you have the impacts of the two types backwards. Transformational Leadership is about walking the walk, not just talking the talk. In my opinion is the antithesis of being manipulative, it's being authentic. And that is where people get queasy about embracing it.

Transformational is intrinsic, for the leader
- As noted in your link: "This is about the leader having a clear set of values and demonstrating them in every action, providing a role model for their followers."

Transactional is extrinsic and therefore directed outward.
- As noted on your link: "Transactional leaders tend to be directive and sometimes dominating. They tend to be action oriented."

Transformational leadership is what Good to Great, The 8th Habit of Highly Effective Leaders and any number of additional books, are about.

Patti

cwatine's picture

Patti-

Thank you for this explanation. I need to dig more.

What I still don't get clearly is the real life behind the theory, or more precisely how the leader makes his directs act toward the targets of the company.

In transactional leadership, the leader defines a set of rules and targets, and asks his directs to behave in conformity with those. He does not ask his directs to embrace a set of value. He judges them on actions and results. The links states : "Do as I say and you will get a raise." "Meet this quota or you will get fired.". I would call this "rules". And I agree it is not what motivates people ! I feel it is a caricature ...

In transformational leadership, the leader demonstrates a set of values. Being kind of a role model for the others. It means he asks his direct to embrace those values, expecting that they will act in the right direction because they will have the "right" (meaning "similar to his") values. It also means that the company performance his more leader's dependant.
What I am not very confortable with is "what about the people who have a different set of values compared to what the leader asks ..." I can't see any possible authenticity for the directs here.

Are there any examples you could draw to illustrate what would be a transformational kind of leadership against a transactional ?

(By the way, in "Good to Great", I did not feel the statistics behind the theory were meaningfull. I feel Collins picked up a set of company complying with HIS idea of a good performer.)

Cédric.

jhack's picture

Thanks for the links. If I understand correctly, then someone like Steve Jobs would be transformational: driving his people to create "insanely great" computers, being part of a vision for technology that appeals to people's desire to have an impact in the world. Is that a good example?

And I agree with Cedric that the wiki entry for transactional is a bit of a caricature (behavioral approaches are often caricatured).

Maybe if we look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the difference between the two is a matter of which level is used as the motivator?

Dave, can you point to some good examples of both types from your research?

cwatine's picture

John-

When I read what you say, I wonder if both approaches are so antithetic
(is it the right translation ?).

I feel a company is always the place for transactional leadership (contractual relationship). We are more talking about [i]managers[/i] than [i]leaders[/i].
I feel a leader can be of the transformational kind, or not... If he is not, he is [i]just[/i] ... a manager, but not a leader ?

Cédric.

dmbaldwin's picture

Hi Everyone,

Sorry, I had a very busy weekend and didn't get a chance to check email like I wanted to.

I got a book out of my office and copied a couple pages out of another wanting to answer John's questions about Transformational Leadership.

Cedric's post with the links to Wikipedia took care of that for me. I hadn't looked at Widipedia wo see if they had definitions. Let me just make a couple of comments about what everyone has posted.

First, the basic definitions I use for someone being a leader are as follows:
Someone who exercises influence is a leader. Therefore a manager is a leader (hopefully). Also, a leader is someone who knows what to do next, knows why that is important and is able to bring the appropriate resources to bear on the situation at hand. So anyone in the organization can be a leader based on those two definitions, including the manager.

Second, although this style of leadership can be used in a church setting, most of the research has taken place in business, military and industrial settings. So although I'm a religious educator, the transformation leadership concept is mostly found in the market place.

Third, now to the issue of whether this becomes a manipulative form of leadership. Cedric made reference to that in an oblique way in one of his postings. I thought Patti answered it well. The four "I's" that the Wikipedia article cited are the crux of transformational leadership. Walking the talk as we say in the States is what is a major part of the style, but also serving those in your charge is the second part of this style. One of the people I studied asked me if I ever pulled up to a stop light and looked at the car next to me. A car with no springs left in it, 20 years old with four or five kids fighting in the back seat. He said growing up he was one of those kids sitting in the back seat. His goal in life was to never lead someone who would be put in that situation -- kind of the down and out of our society. He led a church of 12,000 people. On his semi-annual reviews with his direct reports one of the questions he asked them was, "When you grow up, what do you want to do?" He had each person on a personal growth plan, that in some cases had nothing to do with the church, but was helping them be all they could be. That didn't contribute to the bottom line and won't in your context either, but is it doing the right thing by your people. That's where the last two "I's" come to play. Part of it, though, is equipping them (intellectual stimulation) to do the job you have assigned for them to do.

Fourth, I like to look at transformational leadership as being at one end of a continuim. Laissez-faire leadership is at the other end of the scale. Transactional leadership is something that one uses periodically depending on the circumstance. It's not the antithesis of transformational leadership just a step away from it. One's not good and the other bad, just one is more preferable than the other.

Okay I've gone on long enough. I just loved reading your posts. Cedric, I want you to know that I read through your posting on how to use MS Outlook and have started applying those applications to my everday life. Just to take the time to post all those ideas gives me a hint you may be a transformational leader! Thanks so much,

So, what do you guys think? I will work at putting a bibliography on another posting. Just doing what I think Cedric did and google transformaitonal leadership brings tons of things up you can read through.

Now I have gone on for too long!

Blessings,

Dave[/list]

kklogic's picture

Probably the best definition of the difference between a manager and a leader I have heard was from a speech by Marcus Buckingham.

He said that [b]managers[/b] look for the differences in people and try to leverage those. [b]Leaders[/b] look for the similarities in people and try to leverage those instead.

So, while I agree that managers can be leaders - I do not think they are synonymous - nor do I think being of a certain title makes you the latter.

I have worked for both styles of leadership that you mention. My gut instinct is to say that it depends on the employee whether one is more effective than the other.

Mark's picture

I love the thread!

My thoughts don't generally run this way. Leaders and managers - sure, they're different - are both responsible for the same thing: results.

For me, its all about results. If I had two executives working for me and one was transactional and one was transformational, and they both achieved results, I wouldn't care if they were green. And if the transformational one failed, and the transactional one hit home runs, I'd celebreate the results, not the process. And vice versa.

Results.

Mark

cwatine's picture

Dave-

Wow, thank you for this and glad if you can use the advices about Outlook. I also made a Word doc. If you are interested in digging the subject, you can PM me.
I don't know if it makes me a transformational leader, :wink: but I got so much from MT that I need to give back a little bit.

I think it is cultural, but for me it is very strange to put on a same plan what happens in a Church context and in a Company context. I think we are not used to that, here ... I read a study about engagement in US and European companies and I showed that the "engagement" level was much more important in the states. European in general and French in particuliar are very cautious about his kind of things. Maybe too much.

It certainly explains why I am so cautious when we begin to talk about sets of values, etc. But, as I said, I am aware as a company owner to have a huge influence on the other's values.

Anyways, I loved exchanging about that and appreciated the mutual respect and patience in the conversation.

Could someone clarify "walk the talk" ? I am not sure I understand that.

Cédric.

cwatine's picture

Mark-

Well, I am afraid we don't agree on that ...
Or where do you put the limit of "just results count ..." ?
In the past, I fired a guy who had excellent results ...

Cédric.

dmbaldwin's picture

Hey Mark,

Thanks so much for the compliment about this thread. I agree! I've had fun reading through it.

I guess I somewhat agree with your last statments about results vs. style preference. If you think through all the implications of your observations I would agree. Someone who is a strong transactional leader may get results in the short-term, but without some human side to her/his style turnover accelerates, work isn't as fulfilling for the worker, etc. Thus productivity flags and costs go up.

Anyway, that's my five cents.

I just love reading and discussing transformational leadership though!

Blessings,

Dave

kklogic's picture

C,

Walk the walk means to live what you preach. So, you can talk to your people about integrity and then concurrently have it being known that you are doing something like cheating on your spouse. So, you are then "talking the talk, but not walking the walk."

On the other hand, if you talk to your staff about honesty and you own up to everyone about a big mistake you made, you are "walking the walk."

Does that help?

Mark's picture

Cedric-

Oh, I think we do agree. MY definition of results includes developing teams, ethics, examples, long term thinking, personal development, etc.

I'm not just talking money.

Mark

cwatine's picture

Kklogic-

Thanks, I get it now !

Cédric.

kklogic's picture

Mark,

What about leaders who aren't in management roles? For instance, we have some folks who are very influential on others that don't have titles that belie that. So, while they are directly responsible for their job, they aren't really responsible for results necessarily in their role as a leader. However, a manager IS responsible for both.

cwatine's picture

Mark-

I would have bet on that, of course. I agree on your definition of results, too !

What I have a hard time with, is determining goals (results to be accomplished) other than with figures. Money is a good indicator because you cannot cheat with it. What about collaboration, ethics, long terme, etc. How do you measure that ? etc.
(You remember I told you I would remind you of this perfect subject for a podcast) :wink:

Cédric.

dmbaldwin's picture

kklogic,

Aren't we all responsible for the results Mark mentioned? An individula who is held accountable for the climate and culture is still judged by how well he/she gets along with others, ethical issues, etc. Not just personal results on the job.

We have had an issue with admins not "getting it" when it comes to our mission and vision. We have decided that anyone -- even an admin -- can challenge anything anyone else says or does that is not in keeping with our mission and vision. At times all of us are called on to be leaders in almost every context.

Blessings,

Dave

kklogic's picture

Unfortunately, I was typing when Mark was - thus it looks like my post was a question back to his. It's a shame we don't have threading capabilities.

Sometimes, a leader will be asked for feedback (or just give it on their own), even if it's not a decision that they have the authority to make. For instance, CEO says, "what do you think of acquiring company X?" Leader (who is not in a management capacity) gives an opinion on such as directed. However, they would not be held accountable for the CEO's decision. Now, I suppose it could be said that the leader is accountable to their reaction and behavior as it relates to the CEO's decision -- but isn't everyone in the company?

I guess that's my argument here. Every person in an organization is responsible for the things Mark mentioned. Being a leader maybe puts you in the spotlight moreso than another person - that's all.

kklogic's picture

c,

As to quantifying those "soft" goals - you just put a hard metric around it. For instance, the goal may be "you will be to work on time every day for 2 straight weeks."

cwatine's picture

kk-

Yes, this one is easy.

What about team work, vision commitment, ethics, etc. ? What are the metrics.
And ... How do you evaluate performance : on an individual base or a team base ?

Cédric.

kklogic's picture

C,
Where, oh where is Mark to save me here? :) I'm a newbie - so take this with a grain of salt. :)

Here's how I'd do it:

[b]Teamwork: [/b]

~ Problem employee goal - "you will go two weeks with no negative reports from anyone on the team."
~ Leader in the team - "you will do 2 things in the coming week to help Problem Employee be a better team player."

[b]Ethics: [/b]

~ In my humble opinion, this isn't a goal area. If you don't have proper ethics, it's not trainable. You either get it or you don't.

Of course, those would likely be drilled down a little more in the coaching process or if these were real situations. For instance, for the Leader in the Teamwork area, when you brainstorm, perhaps you come up organizing a team lunch with Problem Employee or something similar - so it's more concrete.

jhack's picture

I’m still a bit confused. Perhaps it’s my perspective.

We influence others through our behavior: what we say and what we do. What we think is irrelevant unless it changes our behavior.

We can be most effective in influencing others by appealing to what motivates them. In my experience, few people are motivated purely by money (but they can be demotivated by perceptions of unfair compensation). Almost everyone wants to be part of something bigger, something that matters. Some just want to be liked.

If we motivate by appealing to what’s important to others, then we are being effective.

It strikes me that “transformational” leaders differ from “transactional” in that they appeal to a different set of motivators: the less material ones. Is this just a way to value one person’s motivations above another’s?

What matters: what someone does, or why they do it?

mauzenne's picture

Cédric,

I'm curious, why did you fire someone producing excellent results?

I'm guessing there were other "results" he produced that were short of excellence, but ...

Mike

cwatine's picture

Mike,

You guessed it right.

This person was in finance.
By "results", I was refering only to the fact she was working fast and made only rare mistakes. So her "core competences" were well above average. She was fast, experienced and new the company well.

But she had very low standards in terms of ethics, team work, company commitment and ... sense of confidentiality.

I did not succeed in corrected them. So it meant I has no other solution than fire her.

Several people in the company came and told me they did not understand why I had waited so long ...

I now have a person whose competences are not as good ... But she is willing to improve. And ... Her manager has begun using O3 for two weeks to coach her through the process. :wink:

Cédric.

cwatine's picture

KK,

Salt is bad for my health ! :lol:
Sorry if I shocked you by saying you choosed an easy one.

Before taking the position of a compaby owner, I am coming from a financial/controlling background, so I have an easy time with measuring sales performance, cashflow, lean processes, etc. I am at ease with figures.
But those are not the complete picture, the real life of the company. It would be like saying your heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen capacity are the only indicators on your improvement in life ! Sure they say a lot about your chance of having a long life, but nothing about the quality of it.

My point is really on finding a proper metric for measuring things like ambiance, team spirit, etc.

Why ? Because what you don't measure is very difficult to improve ...

And ... I think I'll continue to bother you so Mark is forced to come and help you ( ... if you agree :wink: )

Cédric.

PS : I think you are right about Ethics ... We can only ask for a change in behaviour. I should have put "proofs that you respect the company standard in ethics"

dmbaldwin's picture

John,

I think you have gotten to the heart of the matter when it comes to Transformational vs. Transactional. People who are motivated to a higher goal or mission in life/work/corporate mission, as a rule are happier, more content, better contributers to the company. I deal with a lot of volunteers. I've heard it said that those of you working in the market place also work with volunteers. People volunteer to work with/for you. If the intrinsic rewards and greater than "me" mission isn't present, they'll go volunteer for someone else (for pay of course).

Also, in the long run I believe it does matter what a person thinks. Sooner or later the way you think pops up in your conversations, work, performance. Sooner or later the true person comes out.

Blessings,

Dave

cwatine's picture

John,

"In my experience, few people are motivated purely by money (but they can be demotivated by perceptions of unfair compensation). "

This absolutely confirms my (short) experience with management.
- Money is a weak motivational factor.
- But it is a strong demotivational factor.

It can be demotivating in two ways :
1) if you dont give enough to secure the person, she will not perform optimally
2) if the person feels her wage in unfair compared to others, and you don't address that, there will be no motivation

In the beginning of my carreer, I would think a raise of salary could solve motivation problems ... I have learnt it rarely even contributes to solve the issue.

Cédric.

cwatine's picture

[quote="dmbaldwin"]I deal with a lot of volunteers. I've heard it said that those of you working in the market place also work with volunteers. People volunteer to work with/for you. If the intrinsic rewards and greater than "me" mission isn't present, they'll go volunteer for someone else (for pay of course).[/quote]

I think there is a text about that in the "Essential Drucker", but I don't remember the title. Drucker explains how companies can benefit from the experience of structures that employ non-paid volonteers.

kklogic's picture

[b] My point is really on finding a proper metric for measuring things like ambiance, team spirit, etc.

Why ? Because what you don't measure is very difficult to improve ...

And ... I think I'll continue to bother you so Mark is forced to come and help you ( ... if you agree :wink: )[/b]

First of all, YES! Please continue until we get Mark to come and save me here. :D

My initial thoughts are:

1) It's good these things aren't so easily quantifiable, or the world might not need good managers.
2) Are there indirect ways in which these things can be measured?

I'm thinking of Good to Great for the Private Sector. In it, it discusses how certain not-for-profits have the same issue - in a roundabout way. For instance, the Cleveland Orchestra wanted to be a World Class orchestra. How do you measure such a thing? One of the metrics they used was how many standing ovations they get.

So, maybe the metric can be something like - "how many times do I get compliments on this person from other people in the company?" or something similar.

jhack's picture

Dave,

Thanks. I was thinking about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the car today. The Montgomery bus boycott changed the behavior of the bus operators (and authorities supporting them) by making their revenue dependent on providing equal bus service to all. Transactional, perhaps, but the outcome was good. If, however, you can influence someone’s values so that their behavior is driven by the belief that all are created equal, then people will act accordingly, and you won’t need to create separate (transactional) motivators for each discrete situation (buses, diners, hotels, etc).

So I think I’m starting to get it. Transformational leadership aims to influences people’s decision making process, so that their behavior is aligned with goals. You don’t need to micromanage.

jhack's picture

Cedric and kk,

I'm intrigued by the notion of measuring etchical behavior, spririt, commitment, etc.

Could they measured by what we don't do?

Could they be byproducts of other (measurable) things? Commitment is another way of saying you meet your deadlines...

cwatine's picture

John,

:D I like that ! I feel you are on the right track. Lets say you want to work on team spirit : how do you measure the improvement ? Not with the number of team meeting (it is a mean, not a result). Not with the achievements (they could be beause of one person in the group)

On a side note, I attended a conference a few weeks ago. It was about "immaterial assets" of a company (not sure about translation).
It stated that in the value of a company there is more than buildings, machines, results, patents, etc.

On a personnel side :there also is the quality of collaboration, the ambiance, the retention, etc.
On a commercial side : customer loyalty, contracts, etc (not just turnover)

The guy proposed a dashboard which was complementary to financial ones.

I felt it was a little bit complicated to implement in a small company, but it was an eye openner : i think in the near future, the value of our companies will not be only based on cold financial figures.

jhack's picture

I most often hear it referred to as "Intangible Assets" here in the US.

dmbaldwin's picture

John,

Thanks for the ideas. I believe you are right about your take on transformational leadership and what happens when people catch the vision for that style. I'm not sure, though, it takes away the personal contact with followers. In fact two of the "I's" of transformational leadership infer quite a bit of contact or knowledge of the people we lead. Those two "I's" are Individual Consideration and Intellectual Stimulation.

That brings me to another thought or question. Why do we delegate? Now the historic/orthodox answer is to get "stuff" off our plate. We don't want to become overwhelmed with details, etc. But what if through Individual Consideration and Intellectual Stimulation we determine where our followers need to develop personally, so our delegation is in areas where they can grow personally? It's not just a matter of getting things off our to do list as much as it is an eye to developing our direct reports. Just an idea.

Blessings,

Dave

cwatine's picture

Dave,

On a company point of view, I think we delegate because it is the only way to get leverage within the company.
We acheive together through collaboration much more than we would by working in parallel.

On an individual point of viewn is also a way of focussing on what we do best. And I suppose a positive "side effect" is the fact that we give more interesting jobs and responsibilities to our directs.
If you want to grow, you need to grow your directs.
If you don't succeed in growing them, you won't grow yourself.

Regards,

Cédric.

dmbaldwin's picture

Cedric,

Okay, that's a great thought. I hadn't thought of it from that perspective. As my directs become more competent, I become more effective. It makes great sense, I just never connected the two. I guess I did when it came to the organization -- my directs become better, the organization acheives more -- but not on the personal level.

Thanks for the insight.

Blessings,

Dave

dmbaldwin's picture

So, have we exhausted this topic? I have really enjoyed reading through the posts.

Thanks all for making me a better leader and manager because of your input!

Blessings,

Dave

kklogic's picture

Dave,

Either way, it was a great topic. Thank you for starting it. We should try and do more of these types of threads.

douglase's picture

Having just read this thread, I thought I would post some of what I have learnt/done over the last year.

My business unit is an ICT service desk providing IT support to about 10k customers. I have about 55 staff working with me. About this time last year, I facilitated a workshop with all of my staff, and worked with them to create a vision, and a set of core values for the business.

the vision that we came up with was "Achieving excellence by providing quality support through care, expertise and commitment."

During the beginning of this year we also had a massive exodus of experienced staff. Now, in October, we have for the first time ever (in my 11 years in this org) started to achieve our KPIs (Passed everything in August and September), have a reduced turnover (staff are now moving within the company rather than to other companies), and in general have a positive vibe. I have team leaders who are mentoring and coaching, using stretch learning.

The benefits above the green line, have all stemmed from the work we have been doing below it. We have focused on improving identity, our relationships, and how we share information.

All in all, I'm quite proud of what I/we have managed to accomplise.

Douglas.

tomas's picture

I would just like to make a comment about the need for fit between the style of leadership, the organisation and its environment. I don't think you can assume that one style of leadership is intrinsically better than another. eg is transformational leadership better than transactional? A lot depends on the circumstances.

Organisations typically go through periods of stability followed by periods of instability. (The change-freeze-change cycle) Transformational leadership can be necessary during times of change, but transactional leadership may be what's needed during times of relative instability.

This tends to sort itself out in practice, as transformational leaders often move on once they have brought about change. They can get bored with being a caretaker. This can be a good thing. Organisations can reach a point of exhaustion when they are required to continually transform over long periods of time. Eventually staff become very resistent to change, viewing it as just another management fad.