A constantly changing environment requires increasingly flexible and dynamic corporate and leadership models. Therefore, a prominent and increasingly widespread leadership style is transformational leadership. In Germany, many organizations still use directive leadership, with discipline, rules, and performance orientation forming the cornerstones of the corporate culture. This orientation may be successful in predictable, stable environments, but more flexibility is now required in most industries. What constitutes transformational leadership and which advantages companies and employees enjoy through this leadership style, you can read in the new article by zweikern.
Transactional versus transformational
Towards the end of the 20th century, the political scientist James MacGregor Burns analyzed the leadership styles of various politicians. They came to the distinction between two basic styles: transactional and transformational leadership. While the former seeks to maintain the status quo, transformational leadership seeks to effect change. This theory was eventually expanded by Bernard Morris Bass, who extended this approach from politics to employee management. Transactional leaders provide clear guidance on the performance expected of employees and the consequences of achieving goals. Employees are motivated extrinsically (externally), i.e., through rewards, tasks, and responsibilities.
On the other hand, transformational leadership seeks to awaken employees' intrinsic (inner) motivation, thereby creating loyalty, respect, and trust in the leader. Bass describes four criteria that must be met for this to happen: The manager should act as a role model, stimulate intellectually, provide individual support, and motivate in an inspiring manner. Employees should thus become more independent and self-confident and demonstrate intrapreneurship. If this leadership style is implemented successfully, employees are empowered to change their behavior and thus contribute to the continuous improvement of work processes and collaboration. As a result, the company can be transformational and agile.
The six dimensions of transformation
Bass postulated four basic competencies that transformational leaders must fulfill (be a role model, stimulate intellectually, support individually, motivate inspirationally). These were expanded by Podsakoff and colleagues (1990) to create six dimensions.
Being a role model
People are more likely to imitate the behavior and attitudes of others if they respect them. Thus, if a leader expects certain skills from employees, they should first practice them themselves.
Create a vision
Shared vision and values are essential requirements for inspiration and motivation to emerge. If a company is committed to a specific vision, this encourages employees to set and achieve closer to these values. Conversely, if there are no shared goals, productivity and working relationships can suffer.
If employees are to be motivated and satisfied in their company, supporting individual needs is extremely important. Personal skills and strengths are fostered and developed through a supportive attitude on the part of the manager. As a result, employees feel valued and develop greater self-confidence, which empowers them to tackle new challenges.
Promoting group goals
In addition to organizational vision, subordinate group goals are also essential to strengthening the sense of "we. By pursuing common goals, the human need for belonging is satisfied, which positively impacts well-being. Furthermore, own goals are aligned with group goals so that everyone on a team is pulling in the same direction.
The fifth dimension describes the intellectual stimulation of employees by the manager. If employees are encouraged to think innovatively and to find errors or opportunities for improvement in existing systems, the entire company benefits.
Transformational leaders expect performance from employees that is aligned with individual strengths and encourage them to take responsibility. It is important not to set expectations so high that they are impossible to achieve. On the other hand, very low expectations are also counterproductive and can have an equally demotivating effect.
Easier said than done?
Agreeing on the individual dimensions of transformational leadership and putting them into practice is no easy task. Opportunities for exchange and discussion must be created, and the results of the exchange must also be implemented. Treating all team members equally is probably not always compatible in practice with taking individual needs into account. In addition, there must be prior experience and relationships within the team to consolidate mutual trust. The leader must demonstrate this trust both to the employees and to him or herself, which is probably easier for experienced leaders than for inexperienced leaders.
This type of leadership may sometimes be more strenuous than mere directive behavior but makes up for this extra effort with the added creativity, commitment, and togetherness. As mentioned in a recent article, the transformational leadership style is very promising, especially in times of crisis, due to its flexibility and individuality. Adaptation is essential for survival in uncertain environments that bring new challenges every day. That is precisely the strength of this leadership style.
Conclusion on transformational leadership
Rigid hierarchies and inflexibility are the hallmarks of many German companies. If the view of employee leadership and corporate cultures does not change soon, the competitiveness of many organizations will suffer sooner or later. If managers want to strive for different directions, values, or certain leadership styles, coaching and consulting can help. If the six dimensions of transformational leadership described above are taken into account, nothing can stand in the way of adaptive leadership.
They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.