The website for Changing Minds.org describes transformational leadership in the standard way, as charismatic leaders with vision and imagination who inspire followers to achieve radical change in an organization or society. Transformational leaders are passionate and exciting and they care about their followers. They make people believe that their ideals can be achieved through their own commitment, enthusiasm and drive. In the process, their followers are also transformed and empowered to do things that they would never have believed possible. This website also points out some of the dangers of transformational leadership in that when such leaders are wrong they can lead "the charge right over the cliff and into a bottomless chasm." They may also "wear out" their followers with constant demands for high energy and commitment, especially if those at the lower levels really do not desire change (Transformational Leadership 2002-11)
Legacee.com has a very extensive guide to transformational leadership, including information on such leaders in history like Queen Elizabeth I and Alexander the Great, links to other websites and reviews of books on this subject. In history, the character of transformational leaders runs the gamut from Christ and Buddha on one end of the spectrum to Hitler and Attila the Hun on the other, and they can motivate their followers to carry out great good or great evil. About the only commonality all of them have is the ability to inspire followers to change the status quo, for better or worse. In everyday life, parents, teachers and religious leaders may also have a transformational effect on their friends, relatives and communities (A Guide to Transformational Leadership 1996-2011). .
About.com Psychology also has a very general definition of transformational leadership, mentioning the work of James MacGregor Burns and Bernard M. Bass. Both of them described transformational leaders as having a positive effect on society or their organization since they are motivated by a moral vision, contrary to charismatic dictators and military leaders like Hitler who leave only destruction in their wake. Like every other article and website on this subject, this one also mentions that these leaders are creative, inspirational, intellectually challenging and opposed to the status quo.
D.M. Boje (2000) also mentions the theories of Burns and Bass, who criticized the ideas of Nietzsche and Machiavelli about charismatic leaders being amoral, authoritarian and dictatorial: this was not what they meant about transformational leadership. Boje also refers to Max Weber's concept that modern leadership was bureaucratic and legalistic (transactional) compared to traditional, feudal leadership, which was based on birth and appeals to Divine Right. Within this schema, for example, Marie Antoinette would represent feudal-traditional leadership overthrown in a revolution. Weber regarded charismatic leaders as revolutionaries, prophets and great religious teachers like Christ, Mohammed and Buddha, or heroes and Supermen with a strong Will to Power. Capitalist entrepreneurs and founders of large corporations are also more likely to fall into this category than the managers or large, well-established corporations, who will more likely be in the rational-transactional-bureaucratic mold.
Money-zine also refers to Burns' concepts of transformational leadership, and his distinction between moral and amoral types of charismatic-transformational leaders. Amoral leaders act from fear, arrogance and narcissism, and are more concerned with their own needs than those of their followers, organization or larger society. In this sense, too, Marie Antoinette has often been portrayed in history as shallow and narcissistic, unconcerned with the common people of France. Justly or unjustly, that is how she has been perceived. For Burns, a truly transformational leader must not simply have vision, charisma and the ability to inspire the masses, but must also have a moral vision, and advocate ethical goals and methods. Ghandhi, Jesus and Martin Luther kind all exemplified this type of moral, transformational leadership. This website also mentions another type of leader -- the passive or "laissez faire" model who delegates authority to followers and rarely intervenes in decision-making or setting goals. Of course, one of the dangers in this case is that the organization might simply sink into anarchy or chaos (Transformational Leadership 2004-10).
Boje, D.M. (2000). Transformational Leadership. New Mexico State University.
Bono and Judge (2004) analyzed 26 studies about transactional and transformational leadership and their relationship with the Big Five personality traits. Their three dimensions of transformational leadership included inspirational motivation (charisma), intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration, while they described transactional leaders as passive, controlling employees through rational and economic methods, and upholding fixed norms and standards. They found that of the Big Five traits, only extroversion correlated with transformational leadership, and then just moderately so. Surprisingly, even openness to experience and working hard to achieve goals did not correlate with the transformational style, although these are almost always part of the very definition of transformational leadership.
Hallingen (2003) studied transformational and instructional styles of leadership among teachers and school administrator, with the latter meaning a focus of curriculum and teaching rather than transformation of the school environment. Instructional leaders could also be heroic and charismatic, of course, only with different goals and methods, and in truth both models placed principals at the center of the action. In both cases, leaders may be very limited by budgets, political, social and environmental factors, such as the type of communities where the schools are located, the level of competence of teachers that can render their work ineffective. Transformational-charismatic leaders can also suffer from burnout and indeed inflict it on their followers.
Piccolo and Colquitt (2006) associated transformational leadership with how workers perceived their core job characteristics. Essentially, by inspiration, motivation, and high-quality exchanges with workers, they vastly improved levels of job performance across all key job characteristics such as variety, identity, significance and feedback. Under transformational leaders, followers viewed their jobs and "more challenging and important" (p. 334) and increased their "intrinsic motivation" to achieve goals without external or economic rewards (p. 335).
Avolio et al. (2004) studied 520 nurses in a Singapore public hospital in order to determine whether transformational leadership led to psychological empowerment, and whether structural distance between leaders and followers influenced organizational commitment. They agreed that transformational leadership improved work performance and organizational commitment, inspired loyalty, encouraged creativity and stimulated the intellectual interests of followers. Transformational leaders enabled followers to "reach their full potential" and got them excited and involved in their jobs and the organization (p. 953). In the matter of physical and structural distance between leaders and followers, proximity made for easier communication, and empowerment in dealing with direct superiors is vital to organizational commitment. In Asia, of course, power distance is always higher than in most Western countries and Singapore is a particularly authoritarian society. Lower-level leaders may not be transformative at all, but transactional and bureaucratic, content to run an organization based on daily routines.
A.G. Stone et al. (2004) compared transformational leaders and student leaders. Transformational leaders build commitment to organizational goals, while the servant leader is focused on followers, with the organization a secondary concern. Servant leaders can also be charismatic and dynamic, but their main concern is improving the lives and welfare of the people who work for them. In this sense, servant leaders like Christ and Buddha could be considered a special category or charismatic, transformational leader, even their ultimate goals may well be spiritual, otherworldly and non-material.
Avolio, J. et al. (2004). "Transformational Leadership and Organizational Commitment: Mediating Role of Psychological Empowerment and Moderating Role of Structural Distance." Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25, pp. 951-68.
Bono, J.E. And T.A. Judge (2004). "Personality and Transformational and Transactional Leadership: A Meta-Analysis." Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 84, No. 5, pp. 901-10.
Hallingen, P. (2003). "Leading Educational Change: Reflections on the Practice of Instructional and Transformational Leadership." Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol. 33, No. 3, pp. 329-51.
Piccolo, R.F. And J.A. Colquitt (2006). "Transformational Leadership and Job Behavior: The Mediating Role of Core Job Characteristics." Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 49, No. 2, pp. 327-340.
Stone, A.G. et al. (2004). "Transformational vs. Servant Leadership: A Difference in Leader Focus." Leadership and Organization Development Journal, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp. 349-61.
Marie Antoinette as Leader and Symbol of the Old Regime
Marie Antoinette was hardly a liberal or radical in her political views, and even during the French Revolution advocated restoration of the Old Regime and royal absolutism. In these views, she should be described as conservative and traditionalist, as were most of her fellow European monarchs of the era, and she refused to accept the idea that a National Assembly would place any limits on the power of the monarchy. When she attempted to flee France in 1791 with King Louis XVI, her purpose was to join the Austrian and Prussian armies that were preparing to invade France and overturn the Revolution. In this respect, the charges against Marie Antoinette that led to her execution…