Identification of Leadership Transformational

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T RANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP QUALITIES
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EUROPEAN JOURNAL O F W ORK A ND O RGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY, 1997, 6 (4), 415-430

Identification of Transformational Leadership
Qualities: An Examination of Potential Biases
Filip Lievens, Pascal Van Geit, and Pol Coetsier
University of Ghent, Belgium

A basic ingredient in transformational leadership development consists in identifying leadership qualities via distribution of the multifactor leadership questionnaire (MLQ) to followers of the target leaders. It is vital that the MLQ yields an accurate and unbiased assessment of leaders on the various leadership dimensions. This article focuses on two sources of bias which may occur in identifying leadership qualities. First, when followers assess the strengths and weaknesses of their leaders, they may have difficulty in differentiating between the various transformational and transactional leadership behaviours. It is found that this is only the case for the transformational leadership attributes because the four transformational leadership dimensions measured by the MLQ correlate highly and cluster into one factor. MLQ ratings on the three transactional leadership dimensions are found n ot to be interrelated and show evidence for three distinct factors: contingent reward, active management-by-exception and passive leadership. Second, social desirability does not seem to be a strong biasing factor, although the transformational leadership scale is somewhat more socially desirable. These findings emphasize that the measurement of so-called “new” leadership qualities remains a controversial issue in leadership development. Practical implications of these findings and avenues for future research are also discussed.

INTRODUCTION

In recent years organizations have gone through d ramatic changes, including flatter and looser structures, downsizing, and horizontal approaches to information flow. On the one hand these changes are d ue to rapid technological developments, global competition, and the changing nature o f the workforce. On Requests for reprints should be addressed to Filip L ievens, Department o f Personnel Management and W ork and Organizational Psychology, University of Ghent, H enri Dunantiaan 2 , 9000 G hent, Belgium.

This research was supported b y a g rant f rom the Fund for Scientific Research— Flanders (F.W.O.). T he authors would like to acknowledge Deanne N. Den Hartog, Jaap J. Van Muijen, and Paul L. K oopman for making a Dutch translation of the multifactor leadership q uestionnaire available.

© 1 997 Psychology Press Ltd

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LIEVENS, VAN GEIT, COETSIER

the other hand these organizational transformations and innovations are triggered by interventions such as total quality management and b usiness process reengineering. Leadership is regarded as a critical factor in the initiation and implementation of the transformations in o rganizations. If leadership wants to engender a positive impact on individuals, teams, and organizations, both practitioners and researchers have argued that earlier leadership paradigms such as directive versus p articipative leadership, consideration versus initiating structure, autocratic versus democratic leadership, and task versus relations-oriented leadership should be broadened (see, for example, Avolio & Bass, 1995; Bass & Avolio, 1990; Conger, 1993; Ekvall & Arvonen, 1991, 1994; Puffer & McCarthy, 1996). With respect to the management of transformation processes in organizations, there is a strong need for leaders who are more change-centred. These leaders place value on the development of a clear vision and inspire followers to pursue the vision. In this way they provide a strong motivational force for change in followers. Anderson and King (1993) also concluded that besides a participative leadership style, a clear v ision or mission is most likely to foster innovation. Leaders who enhance followers’ confidence and skills to devise innovative responses,...
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