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For every theory there is a counter argument. What are the criticisms and arguments against Transformational Leadership? Identify the sources and clearly articulate the reasoning behind the criticisms. Adopt a position for or against Transformational Leadership and defend your position with argument


This essay is based on the Transformational leadership theory and will be referred to as TL throughout this essay. This essay will look into criticisms and arguments against the theory and analyse the reasoning of these criticisms and arguments. Effective leaders are well aware that in best practice it is never viable to implement one style of leadership and flexibility is vital for a smooth operation. This essay will therefore stand for Transformational Leadership where it is applicable and against it where it is not. It will then articulate on the reasons behind this thinking.

Main Body

The original theory of TL was developed by James Burns in 1978 but it can be said that Bernard Bass is the main theorist behind the continuous development of TL. From 1985 onwards Bernard Bass was accredited with more of a structured and better development on the theory of TL. Transformational leadership is very much dependant on human nature and how best to harness this to gain better performance. This naturally meant that just as with human nature there were many complex flaws with TL and the academics and critics were ever ready to emphasise this. TL was also criticised for not being able to standalone as a single theory as the understanding of other theories was essential in order for its concepts to be grasped by the potential leader. Babou (2008) “Understanding the difference between transactional and transformational leadership is vital in getting the whole concept of transformational leadership theory” (pg1). Due to different viewpoints and counter arguments against TL, Bass and Avolio developed The Full Range Leadership Model (FRL), which integrated 9 factors from transactional leadership and transformational leadership. Kirkbride (2006) “The FRL model makes the point that what is required is a change in the balance of leadership behaviours, away from the more transactional and more towards the transformational” (pg8).

Kirkbride (2006)

This was an important development as TL was compared with Transactional leadership by the critics and seemed to fall short or still to prove its better qualities. Mullin ((2007) “Transactional leadership is based on legitimate authority within the bureaucratic structure of the organisation” (Pg381). Another criticism of TL was that it was dependant on further theories, and had strong similarities to participative leadership theory. ChangingMinds.org (2011) “A Participative Leader, rather than taking autocratic decisions, seeks to involve other people in the process, possibly including subordinates, peers, superiors and other stakeholders”(pg23). The relationship to other theories is true and was the basis of how FRL was developed, but this integration did however still make TL its own entity and help to stabilize its theoretical background.

In 1998 Bass and Avolio developed the 4 components of TL in order to characterize the leader that implements TL. These 4 components are known as the 4Is of Transformational leadership.

Cherry, K (2012)
The Components of Transformational Leadership
Bass also suggested that there were four different components of transformational leadership. Intellectual Stimulation – Transformational leaders not only challenge the status quo; they also encourage creativity among followers. The leader encourages followers to explore new ways of doing things and new opportunities to learn. Individualized Consideration – Transformational leadership also involves offering support and encouragement to individual followers. In order to foster supportive relationships, transformational leaders keep lines of communication open so that followers feel...
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