Bass' Transformational Leadership Theory

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Bass’ Transformational Leadership Theory

Christy Duvigneaud

Capella University


Bass’ Theory of Transformational Leadership provides a framework and foundation for managers and leaders in human services organization to develop a contemporary approach relative to the roles, relationships, and resource capacities that drive their professional positions and sustain the respective institutions. In fact, there is quite a bit of scholarly research extolling the benefits of such a leadership style. Interestingly, leadership theories much like any other epistemological debate have evolved over time in alignment with the variant demographic, economic, technological, political-legal, and social-cultural environments that dictate trends and alterations in research methods and practice. Hence, this paper will analyze some of the empirical research studies that have been utilized to test and validate Bass’ Theory and it will also point towards embracing a blended approach in future theoretical application.

Bass’ Transformational Leadership Theory

Strategic management represents a significant part of an organization’s lifeline to growth, success, and prevalence. In the global world of changing economic conditions, heightened levels of competition, and rapid technological change, organizations must always be ready and positioned to be innovative and adaptable. This is especially true in the nonprofit sector where not only do the aforementioned marketplace characteristics prevail, but where there is also the existence of legal, regulatory, and pressing trends that beckon higher social responsibility upon these public benefactors. Ultimately, strategic management can only come from the leaders and managers of the organization itself. Given this reality, studying what defines leadership and what theoretical constructs pave the way for adopting effective strategies and approaches for strategic nonprofit management can yield to targeted interventions in designing and implementing key policies and understanding into the facets of leadership styles that are conducive to a dynamic marketplace. Truly, as Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe contends in Torquato Tasso, Act I, sc. i (1790) that “a great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together” (“Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,” 2010). In positioning itself with this declaration, Bass’ Theory of Transformational Leadership is one prevalent theory that offers a theoretical future for strategic nonprofit management methodologies. Historical Development of Bass’ Theory of Transformational Leadership The concept of leadership has been around for centuries and yet it is still evolving in ideology and application. Transformational leadership, explicitly, is a notion of leadership that is applicable in organizational management and its theoretical formulation began in the early 1900s with the “great man” theories (Coz, 2007). Through the commencement of study into leadership theory during this time frame, it was initially believed that great leaders coincided with the political, financial, military, or social elites (Cox, 2007). Also, the great man theory coincided with “Aristotelian philosophy” which suggested that leaders had the innate ability to lead others (Marquis & Huston, 2008, p.37). Throughout the 30s, 40s, and 50s, charismatic and innovative leadership definitions emerged from the elitist and oftentimes sexist associations to one that paralleled group and trait theory implying that a transformational leader has the power to lead others by sake of inherent trait characteristics (Cox, 2007). Max Weber in 1947 pioneered a model of transactional and transformational leadership that integrated charismatic, bureaucratic, and traditionalistic principles (Boje, 2000). Weber’s focus was on leaders’ wielding of legitimacy in their pursuit of power and influence. Essentially, Weber was inductive in his approach to ascertain how legitimacy...
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