Leadership: Transference and Persuasion
Maccoby (2004) defines transference as "the often irrational tendency to relate to a leader as some important person from the past -- a parent, a sibling, a close friend, or even a nanny" (p. 119). Transference forms the basis of how employees perceive their leader, as well as what they expect from him/her. I totally agree with the author's position that transference, if not properly checked, can lead to over-expectations and, subsequently, to unnecessary misunderstandings at the workplace, especially if the leader fails to meet the expectations and perceptions imposed upon them as the transferred pattern. To this end, leaders can better understand their employees by first understanding the effect of transference at the workplace. In a competitive marketplace, employee retention is key; employee motivation is a crucial retention tool, and transference can either be a source of motivation or discouragement. Leaders can prevent employee walk-outs; or rather, they can avoid losing their good employees to competitors by identifying transference and helping employees deal with it effectively, so that both the employee and the organization get to benefit.
Maccoby (2004) gives an example where an employee almost gets fired for going on a 'go-slow' after the CEO, whom she perceives as a father figure and does everything to please, selects someone other than her to a higher position. Such situations can be avoided if the leader does identify transference, and hence help the employee to better understand...
To be successful, a leader has to understand the dynamics of this group. This is a group that prefers teamwork to individual effort; and an integrating style of leadership to an authoritative one. An effective leader understands these changing dynamics and puts them to perspective through his style of leadership.
While not disputing the fact that transference at the workplace is more common than we all believe, or want to believe; I have reason to believe that it may not be a very significant factor. We cannot really put forth transference as one of the reasons as to why people would follow a leader. Transference develops over time, and its growth depends upon a number of more significant factors such as compatibility and ethical standards. An employee who values ethics and morality would not follow a leader who doesn't, just because the leader reminds them of a favorite relative. However, if such an employee finds a leader who values ethics like he/she does; they are likely to follow, not because the leader reminds them of someone, but because he/she admires their ethic, and feels that they are compatible.
The above ideology perhaps explains the view advanced by Walker (2013), that people who are less educated (lower levels on the organizational hierarchy) are more likely to follow their leader than those who are more educated (higher levels). I would argue that educated people are less likely to view their leader as this perfect figure, who is better than them, and deserving of their high position; rather they would look up to them, expecting them to behave like they themselves would have behaved in the same position (Walker, 2013). For this reason, more educated people…
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