1.3 Benefits and problems with transformational leadership
You will now consider the benefits and problems with transformational leadership using the Kids Company example.
Activity 1 Benefits of transformational leadership
There are some apparent benefits to transformational leadership. Do you have any ideas about what some of these might be? Jot down your ideas using the Kids Company example to back them up.
Transformational leadership, in looking beyond the transactional, does aspire to deliver a more personal and ethical working environment. Nobody really wants to work in a very impersonal organisation that is solely task-focused. This would be the perfect transactional organisation. Organisations where people connect and respond to one another’s values feel like positive and energising places to work. Ethics cannot be captured in transactions but require something above and beyond these.
Activity 2 Problems with transformational leadership
Write down some suggested potential problems with transformational leadership, again using the Kids Company example to help you.
All of the main problems associated with transformational leadership concern the amount of power it grants and attributes to individual leaders. For example, in the case of Kids Company, the organisation simply was not sustainable because it was so closely tied to the personality of Batmanghelidjh. We will now move on to unpack some of these problems
Transformational leadership seeks a kind of holistic satisfaction of followers’ needs beyond the material (Delaney and Spoelstra, 2015). It aims to address the emotions and values of employees. In so doing it also manoeuvres itself into a realm of the employee’s life and world previously regarded as private and beyond the rights of organisations to touch (Tourish, 2013). The worker must now commit emotionally – even spiritually – to the job and the leader. In Week 1 you saw with Kids Company that the barrier between private life and work was blurred. In fact, investing emotionally in the client as family member was a cornerstone of the Kids Company ethos. Such workplaces can feel welcoming and homely but can also, if they go too far, intrude into private lives.
In its handling of charisma, transformational leadership credits leaders with great power and encourages followers to sacrifice their own discretion in favour of the leader’s powers of example setting and inspirational motivation. Transformational leadership suggests that charisma is something that can be possessed. An alternative view sees charisma as something that is negotiated between people – leaders and followers. What counts as charismatic in one context will not in another: would Batmanghelidjh have been regarded as charismatic in a staid law firm, for example?
There is therefore a danger with transformational leadership that it transfers too much deference and power into the hands of single leaders and you will consider these issues in the next section.