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Bass Transformational Leadership Theory

Technical Details
Name(s): Bass Transformational Leadership Theory
Author: Bernard M. Bass
Classification: Transformational Leadership Theories
Year: 1985

A leader can make a positive difference in a person's life and Bass Transformational
Leadership Theory may be a solution in various cases.
The "Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire" (MLQ) presents itself as more of a
precise or measured way of assessing leadership factors and how an audience is
In any test, such as the "Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire" (MLQ), there is a
problem of "test effect", where you cannot get valid results with subsequent testing.
A different test version may help in some cases, but this type of test would be
difficult to overcome. Also, if one knows the scoring method, it is rather easy to see
in what factor categories the questions fall, and one taking the test could "test out"
according to a predetermined classification.
How "transformational" is transformational? When does that transformation occur
and to what degree? How is it assessed? How does one know if there has been a
transformation and, if so, how long lasting is it? Is it just an ephemeral feeling?
As the word "transformation" suggests, Bass Transformational Leadership Theory is
one of a set of various Transformational Leadership Theories. More information of a
general nature about these can be found in the article Transformational Theories.
Burns originally said that leaders can transform the life of followers by altering their
perceptions, aspirations, expectations, values, and so forth. Qualities within the
leader her or himself are behind the changes. The leader demonstrates,
communicates, and does whatever it takes to get the audience see a vision and
exhort them to do things. Bass main contribution in 1985 to Burns' original theory
was describing psychological mechanisms and setting forth ways of measuring the
efficacy of the Bass Transformational Leadership Theory.

The Bass Transformational Leadership Theory, Bass in other words, was interested
in the extent to which a leader influences followers. Followers go after a leader
because of trust, honesty, and other qualities and the stronger these are, the
greater loyalty they have for the leader. The leader transforms the followers
because of her or his having these qualities. Not only is the leader a role model but
she or he exhorts the following to challenging the existing order, the revolutionary
being a stark example of this. While the leader may have democratic motives in
mind, s/he can assume a Transaction Leadership style at the same time, directing
the followers to do things. Bass saw these aspects of transformational leadership:

Individual consideration, where there is an emphasis on what a group member

needs. The leader acts as a role model, mentor, facilitator, or teacher to bring a
follower into the group and be motivated to do tasks.
Intellectual stimulation is provided by a leader in terms of challenge to the
prevailing order, task, and individual. S/he seeks ideas from the group and
encourages them to contribute. learn, and be independent. The leader often
becomes a teacher.
Inspiration by a leader means giving meaning to the follows of a task. This usually
involves providing a vision or goal. The group is given a reason or purpose to do a
task or even be in the organization. The leader will resort to charismatic approaches
in exhorting the group to go forward.
Idealized influenced refers to the leader becoming a full-fledged role model, acting
out and displaying ideal traits of honesty, trust, enthusiasm, pride, and so forth.
The "Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire" (MLQ) has been created to survey
leadership factors. The current (2011) version, MLQ5x [1] measures characteristics
of passive as well as leaders who actively attempt to make their followers leaders.

According to the National Institutes of Health, there were reports of inconsistent

results concerning the accuracy of the "Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire" (MLQ)
Subsequent research on Finnish nurses in 2002 incicated that the test seemed to be
internally consistent with respect to the leadership subscales (factors) and the
"Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire is a highly suitable instrument to measure
multidimensional nursing leadership [2]. "

As with any test, there are problems with test effects. Even though tests may be
spaced apart in time and with different versions, the form of the test remains the
same, and anyone aware of the factor analysis can easily see what questions
correspond to what factor. One could predict what factor should apply to her or him
and test accordingly. Tests are only snapshots, and often they are deficient in the
scope of description as well as facing dynamic considerations. How complete are
they; do they cover all the essential situations? Assuming that the snapshot is valid
for a particular time, how valid is it at another and in what circumstances?

The Bass Transformational Leadership Theory assumes that the leader has decent
set of ethics, but if the theory is applied in a situation where a leader does not, the
results could be disastrous. Cults, such as the Branch Davidians, are prime
examples of where the process of transformation of a group by a deluded leader can
result in terrible consequences. One should not need to say anything about Hitler.
Bass states that Transactional Leadership can be mixed with Transformational
Leadership, but one has to monitor the Transactional part and devise ways of not
only setting limits to its use but build into the theory check mechanisms for when it
gets out of control.

Future of theory
The world is getting more complex, and people are being brought into situations in
which they may not be able to cope. Case in point are the number of Middle Eastern
countries that have been under the thumbs of despots and are in turmoil.
Transformational leaders can be of great benefit if they can prepare the people who
have never experienced democracy for a participatory situation. On the other hand,
the danger lurks of incipient leaders becoming just as despotic as the ones being
overthrown. Such a situation always has existed, especially in revolutionary
situations, but the technology heightens the intensity of the environment. The
emerging leaders must be educated, intelligent, empathetic with the ones being
led, have a noble ethos, and, perhaps most important, have a noble code of ethics.
Across international and cultural boundaries, different versions of the MLQ might be
tried. For example, it seems that a Spanish version, "Results show that the model
that produces the better results with the data consists of four factors:
transformational leadership, developmental/transactional leadership, corrective

leadership and avoidant/passive leadership. This model is parsimonious and

consistent with the MLQ literature."

Burns' Transformational Leadership Theory

Disciplines > Leadership > Leadership theories > Burns' Transformational

Leadership Theory
Assumptions | Description | Discussion | See also

Association with a higher moral position is motivating and will result in people
following a leader who promotes this.

Working collaboratively is better than working individually.

Burns defined transformational leadership as a process where leaders and followers
engage in a mutual process of 'raising one another to higher levels of morality and

Transformational leaders raise the bar by appealing to higher ideals and values of
followers. In doing so, they may model the values themselves and use charismatic
methods to attract people to the values and to the leader.

Burns' view is that transformational leadership is more effective than transactional

leadership, where the appeal is to more selfish concerns. An appeal to social values
thus encourages people to collaborate, rather than working as individuals (and
potentially competitively with one another). He also views transformational
leadership as an ongoing process rather than the discrete exchanges of the
transactional approach.

Using social and spiritual values as a motivational lever is very powerful as they are
both hard to deny and also give people an uplifting sense of being connected to a
higher purpose, thus playing to the need for a sense of meaning and identity.

Ideals are higher in Maslow's Hierarchy, which does imply that lower concerns such
as health and security must be reasonably safe before people will pay serious
attention to the higher possibilities.

Visionary leadership is closely related to the transformational leadership

style. The major difference is between the two involves the focus on the
future. Visionary leaders live more in the future and they often use a vision of
the future as a way to mobilize followers.
2. Vision As a Strategy Aid
To use vision as a strategy, one needs to define three elementsthe plan,
current state and desired state. It means defining where one is now, where
one wants to be in the future and how one is going to get there. In many
cases, a leadership vision is about defining all three to be able to persuade
the skeptical that there something is doable.
In some cases, this is easy. For example, if one has the money, its easy to
come up with a strategy for buying a home since the process has been
defined and followed by millions over the years. An the other hand, nation
building is a lot more difficult. As the neocons in the Bush Administration
found out when they tried to rebuild Iraq after it had been wrecked by war
Four Characteristics of Vision
Some things change, some things dont. Morpheus, The Matrix
It Provides Direction. One puts forward a desired future and moves
followers toward it.

It Uses Foresight. Typically considered a part of wisdom, it is sometimes said

that a truly great visionary leader knows whats going to happen before others

It is believed. One must be right or at least perceived to be right.

It motivates. If the message cannot energize those hearing it, the would be
visionary leader would be better off teaching economics.

7 Qualities of Visionary Leadership

Becoming the "captain of your fate."
By Brian Tracy
As a member of BNI, you are a leader in your field. Devoted to achieving a
higher level of results, you set an example to everyone around you. Your job
is to continue to grow as a leader in your work and personal lifealways
charging ahead to where you want to be tomorrow.
Over the years, there have been more than 33,000 studies into the qualities
of top leaders. All conclude that "vision" is the most identifiable quality of a
Leaders think about the future most of the time. They think about where
they are going rather than where they have been. They think about the
opportunities of tomorrow rather than focusing on the problems of the past.
Only about 10% of people have this ability to look forward. This small
percentage includes all the movers, shakers, entrepreneurs, business
builders, top sales people, artists, musicians, and creators of all kinds.
To think like a leader, you must practice "idealization" in each area of your
life. Begin by imagining that you have no limitations at all on what you can
be, do, or have.
Imagine for a moment that you have all the time and money that you need.
You have all the education and knowledge. You have all the talent and
experience. You have all the friends and contacts. You are a "no-limit" person

who can do anything that you really put your mind to. You aren't afraid to
answer the following questions:
If you could wave a magic wand and create the perfect situation in every
part of your life, what would it look like?
If you were the very best professional salesperson that you could possibly
be, what additional knowledge, skills, and abilities would you have
developed to a high level?
If you were the best in your business, what sort of products or services would
you sell? And who would you sell them to?
What kind of people skills would you have? What kind of management skills
would you have? Especially, what kind of sales skills would you have?
When you begin the practice of idealization, you can then extend this
exercise to your family, your finances, and your physical health.
When you begin to think like a leader you begin to engage in what is called
"long-term thinking."
Leader of Your Life
Top people are long-term thinkers. Average thinkers think only about the
present, and about immediate gratification. But leaders think about where
they want to be in five and ten years, and what they have to do each hour of
each day to make their desired future a reality.
Leaders inspire others because they are inspired themselves. They are
excited about the possibility of creating an exciting future for themselves.
They get up every morning and they see every effort they make as part of a
great plan to accomplish something wonderful with their lives.
Leaders are optimistic. They see opportunities in everything that happens,
positive or negative. They look for the good in every situation and in every
person. They seek the valuable lessons contained in every problem or
setback. They never experience "failures;" instead, they write them off as
"learning experiences."
Leaders have a sense of meaning and purpose in each area of their lives.
They have clear, written goals and plans they work on every day. Leaders
are clear about where they are going and what they will have to do to get
there. Their behavior is purposeful and goal-directed. As a result, they
accomplish five and ten times as much as the average person who operates
from day to day with little concern about the future.

Leaders accept personal responsibility. Leaders never complain, never

explain. Instead of making excuses, they make progress. Whenever they
have a set-back or difficulty, they repeat to themselves, "I am responsible! I
am responsible! I am responsible!"
Leaders see themselves as victors over circumstances rather than victims of
circumstances. They don't criticize or blame others when something goes
wrong. Instead, they focus on the solution.
Leaders are action-oriented. They are constantly in motion. They try
something, and then something else, and then something else again. They
never give up.
Leaders have integrity. They tell the truth at all times. They live in truth with
themselves, and they live in truth with others.
In the final analysis, you are the leader of your own life. You are the general
in command of your own personal army. You are the president of your own
personal services corporation. You are the "Captain of your fate and the
master of your soul."
The acceptance of leadership is a great responsibility. It is both scary and
exhilarating. Once you decide to become a leader in your life, you cast off
the shackles of fear and dependency that hold most people back. With your
own hands, you design your own future. You set yourself fully on the path to
becoming everything you are capable of becoming.
Brian Tracy - Author - The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business
About Brian Tracy:
Brian Tracy is Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company
specializing in the training and development of individuals and
Brian Tracy has consulted for more than 1,000 companies and addressed
more than 4,000,000 people in 4,000 talks and seminars throughout the US,
Canada and 46 other countries worldwide. As a keynote speaker and
seminar leader, he addresses more than 250,000 people each year.
Brian has studied, researched, written and spoken for 30 years in the fields
of sales, entrepreneurship, economics, history, business, philosophy and
psychology. He is a top-selling author of 42 books that have been translated
into 35 languages and which are sold in 52 countries.

Transformational Leadership
The leadership frameworks discussed so far are all useful in different
situations, however, in business, "transformational leadership Add to My
Personal Learning Plan" is often the most effective style to use. (This was
first published in 1978, and was then further developed in 1985.)
Transformational leaders have integrity Add to My Personal Learning Plan
and high emotional intelligence Add to My Personal Learning Plan. They
motivate people with a shared vision of the future, and they communicate
well. They're also typically self-aware Add to My Personal Learning Plan,
authentic Add to My Personal Learning Plan, empathetic Add to My Personal
Learning Plan, and humble Add to My Personal Learning Plan.
Transformational leaders inspire their team members because they expect
the best from everyone, and they hold themselves accountable Add to My
Personal Learning Plan for their actions. They set clear goals, and they have
good conflict-resolution skills Add to My Personal Learning Plan. This leads to
high productivity and engagement.
However, leadership is not a "one size fits all" thing; often, you must adapt
your approach to fit the situation. This is why it's useful to develop a
thorough understanding of other leadership frameworks and styles; after all,
the more approaches you're familiar with, the more flexible you can be.
3. Laissez faire
Laissez-faire Leadership
French lessons aside, when placed into the context of leadership, the term
laissez-faire depicts a leader who allows subordinates to work on their own.
The laissez-faire leader is the opposite of autocratic leadership, where
people have complete control over their employees, much like a
micromanager. Laissez-faire leaders offer their subordinates autonomy,
providing them with all of the resources and information they need to do
their jobs and intervene only by request or when there is a problem.
This leadership style can be highly intentional but also terribly accidental at
the same time. Essentially, some laissez-faire leaders purposefully work to
provide their followers with freedom to manage their own tasks and
deadlines, while other laissez-faire leaders fail to provide their employees
with adequate leadership and structure, leaving them to fend for

Effective laissez-faire leaders understand that while they can practice a more
hands-off approach to leadership they still have a high level of responsibility
to their followers. The effective laissez-faire leader still monitors the
performance of their employees and provides them with feedback on a
regular basis. They simply refrain from micromanaging them.
In doing so, the laissez-faire leader is able to promote a higher level of job
satisfaction and productivity as long as the employees themselves are
knowledgeable, experienced self-starters. Monitoring employees is a critical
activity for the laissez-faire leader to identify when subordinates lack the
necessary skills, training, expertise, and motivation to effectively manage
Leon the Laissez-faire Leader
To better understand laissez-faire leadership, let's take a look at this
Leon is a laissez-faire leader, and he's in charge of the daily operations at his
family's winery. As a laissez-faire leader, Leon prefers to allow his employees
to manage themselves. The laissez-faire style of leadership is most fitting for
Leon because he runs a family business, so the majority of the workers are
either family or have worked at the winery for an extended period of time.
Leon knows each of the employees are skilled and knowledgeable enough to
handle their responsibilities on their own. Leon only needs to check with his
staff periodically to make sure that they are maintaining a high level of
productivity in whatever tasks they are responsible for at the winery.
He also holds bimonthly performance assessment meetings with each
individual employee to evaluate their performance and goals.
What is Laissez-Faire Leadership? How Autonomy Can Drive Success
Posted November 25, 2014 in Leadership is Learned
Updated January 15, 2016
by Eric Gill
Laissez-faire leadership is based on trust. People who enjoy a wide degree of
latitude in making decisions and working on projects autonomously are often most
comfortable with laissez-faire leaders.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, people who work well in a rigid environment
with clear directives and routine goals typically prefer authoritarian leaders.

What is laissez-faire leadership?

Laissez-faire leaders build a strong team and then get out of the way.The short
version of laissez-faire leadership: Do what you want as long as you get the job
done right.

From a laissez-faire leaders perspective, the key to success is to build a strong

team and then stay out of the way.

Loosely translated from its French origins, laissez-faire means let it be or leave it
alone. In practice, it means leaders leave it up to their subordinates to complete
responsibilities in a manner they choose, without requiring strict policies or

Although laissez-faire leadership does not fit every organization, industry or

situation, some workplaces thrive under laissez-faire leaders. Its all a matter of
finding the right match. Read on to learn more:

How is laissez-faire leadership defined?

History of laissez-faire leadership
Famous laissez-faire leaders and quotes
Laissez-faire leadership style
Pros and cons of laissez-faire leadership
Benefits of laissez-faire leadership
Laissez-faire leadership definition

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines laissez-faire leadership as:

A philosophy or practice characterized by a usually deliberate abstention from

direction or interference, especially with individual freedom of choice and action.

This self-rule style empowers individuals, groups or teams to make decisions. Critics
of this hands-off leadership style contend it is risky to universally delegate decisionmaking responsibility to staff members. Groups and teams do not have the power to
make far-reaching strategic decisions, but laissez-faire leaders allow individuals or
teams to decide how they will complete their work.

What types of businesses attract laissez-faire leaders?

Organizations or departments run by laissez-faire leaders frequently are either in

the incubator phase of product development or theyre engaged in highly creative
businesses. This leadership style is particularly relevant to startup firms, where
innovation is crucial to a companys initial success.

Examples of businesses where laissez-faire leadership works well:

Advertising agencies
Product design firms
Startup social media companies
Research and development departments
Venture capital investment companies
High-end architectural and specialized engineering firms
These businesses tend to prosper under leaders with laissez-faire characteristics.
They hire experts and allow them autonomy to make decisions. The end goal is
perfecting products, systems and services through trial and error.

But not all ad agencies, social media and design firms work best under laissez-faire

During the creative phase, a laissez-faire management style may work well. Once a
creative campaign or customer service program is launched, however, quality
assurance processes and deadlines require attention to detail that may be better
suited for autocratic leadership.

Laissez-faire vs. autocratic leadership

People who prefer working in environments with strict procedures, checks and
balances work well with autocratic leaders.

Bureaucratic environments are traditionally well-suited to autocratic leadership

styles. State departments of motor vehicles are good examples of agencies where
standardized processes and management controls are necessary. Established
manufacturing facilities offer another example of mature businesses with
streamlined processes that need strict protocols and tight quality assurance

Laissez-faire leadership is the direct opposite of autocratic leadership. Instead of a

single leader making all decisions for an organization, group or team, laissez-faire
leaders make few decisions and allow their staff to choose appropriate workplace

Laissez-faire leaders share these characteristics. They:

Delegate authority to capable experts

Maximize the leadership qualities of staff
Praise accomplishments and reward successes
Offer constructive criticism when necessary
Allow staff to solve problems and manage challenges
Know when to step in and lead during a crisis
Who works best under laissez-faire leaders?

People who are self-starters, who excel at individualized tasks and who dont require
ongoing feedback from other team members often prefer working under laissezfaire managers.

Successful laissez-faire leaders typically work with people who:

Have strong skills, extensive education or experience

Are self-motivated and driven to succeed on their own
Have proven records of achievement on specific projects
Are comfortable working without close supervision
History of laissez-faire leadership

Kurt Lewin is often credited with developing the concept of laissez-faire leadership.

Lewin was an early contributor to the study of social psychology. He was one of the
first experts to research group dynamics and organizational psychology. Human
resource experts still rely on Lewins research to assess and manage workplace

Although Lewin recognized laissez-faire leadership as one of three primary

management styles, he did not subscribe to it as his preferred leadership method.
Lewin simply identified laissez-faire leadership as the opposite of autocratic

Along with researchers Ronald Lippitt and Ralph K. White, Lewin identified the
laissez-faire leadership style in the 1930s study Leadership and Group Life. They
recognized laissez-faire leadership as requiring the least amount of managerial

Laissez-faire is the antithesis of centralized leadership, whereby a CEO or military

general makes most of the decisions and relies on subordinates to carry out
instructions. Lewin and his research partners deduced that neither laissez-faire nor
autocratic leadership styles were ideal. Instead, they concluded that democratic
leadership was the optimal style.

Laissez-faire economics

Laissez-faire economics and laissez-faire leadership share free-market traits, but

they are not identical.

Within the field of economics, the term laissez-faire came into vogue in the 1980s
during the Reagan administration with the rise of libertarian theories. Laissez-faire
economic policies are frequently associated with Alan Greenspan, U.S. Federal
Reserve chairman from 1987 to 2006. But it was Greenspans mentor, economist
Milton Friedman, who popularized the term laissez-faire. Both men espoused
macroeconomic theories that reduce governments role in regulating private
industry, international trade and monetary policy.

Because of their hands-off philosophy, people often misinterpret laissez-faire

leaders as absent from the decision-making process. Although some absentee
owners may take such an approach, most laissez-faire leaders are more involved in
policy decisions than people realize.

Examples of laissez-faire leadership

People dont often associate laissez-faire leadership with government. However,

there are many historic examples of large-scale endeavors led by political leaders
that required delegating authority and decision-making to experts. Most of these
examples entailed massive infrastructure projects that would not have been
successful without some form of laissez-faire leadership.

Examples of large-scale projects led by a laissez-faire leadership style:

Transcontinental Railroad: No single individual was responsible for building the

North American railway system, but it serves as an example of laissez-faire
leadership in action. The combination of presidential directives, congressional
cooperation and private enterprise coming together during the second half of the
19th century to lay thousands of miles of track from coast to coast and across U.S.
territories remains unprecedented.
Panama Canal: Led by President Theodore Roosevelt, the Panama Canal was one of
the most ambitious projects in history when construction began in 1904. Although it
was beset by accidents and geographic challenges, completion of the Panama Canal
in 1914 was an engineering marvel. It could not have been accomplished without
Roosevelts willingness to delegate authority to experts.
Hoover Dam: The Hoover Dam involved three U.S. presidents and was built by
hundreds of leaders. Initiated in the early 1920s by Secretary of Commerce Herbert
Hoover under President Calvin Coolidge, the project was finished the following
decade under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Although he is rarely associated with
laissez-faire leadership, Roosevelt could not have completed the many
infrastructure projects built during his presidency had he not delegated authority to
Interstate Highway System: Recognizing the importance of the automobile and
trucking industries to Americas future, President Dwight D. Eisenhower led the
charge to build a state-of-the-art highway system. The massive public works project
provided jobs for tens of thousands of Americans and would not have been possible
without Eisenhowers hands-off approach. His decision to delegate authority to civil
engineers, contractors and specialized workers is a prime example of laissez-faire
Laissez-faire leadership style requirements

Laissez-faire leadership entails giving managers and staff wide latitude in carrying
out their responsibilities.

People who work for laissez-faire leaders are responsible for completing tasks and
identifying issues. Moreover, they are expected to anticipate near-term problems
and spot upcoming opportunities. Laissez-faire leaders usually allow staff to
capitalize on opportunities without having to check in with their superiors.

To succeed, laissez-faire leaders need to:

Closely monitor group performance

Employ highly skilled, well-educated staff
Treat people as motivated self-starters
Use the laissez-faire style only with experienced staff
Give consistent feedback to team members
Laissez-faire management style explained

Within organizations from private companies and nonprofit entities to

government agencies laissez-faire leadership starts at the top of the
organizational hierarchy.

For example, a CEO or executive director with laissez-faire leadership characteristics

typically hires or appoints senior executives and department heads with
considerable experience in their respective fields. Those individuals are expected to
know how to run their departments. They are entrusted to do so with minimal

When is laissez-faire leadership effective?

Expert merchandizing managers and retail buyers are good examples of people who
often work well under a laissez-faire leadership structure.

Within fast-moving markets, purchasing and promotional decisions are based on

fluctuating factors from consumer trends and supply-chain bottlenecks to price
increases and severe weather patterns. Product managers who work under laissezfaire leaders are given autonomy to pivot fast and make quick decisions without
waiting weeks for an approval process to begin.

In business parlance, this is called being nimble. It does not mean laissez-faire
leaders are reckless or blas. On the contrary, successful laissez-faire leaders are

observant. They reward people for their successes and hold them accountable for
their mistakes.

Advantages and disadvantages of laissez-faire leadership

One criticism of the laissez-faire leadership style is that it tends to favor successoriented people rather than those who solve societys most pressing problems.

In other words, laissez-faire leadership tends to serve the needs of the people who
most benefit from it. This can be counterintuitive to the objectives of corporate
responsibility. Other management models, like servant leadership, focus on good
corporate citizenship. The objective is to serve the needs of customers,
communities and disenfranchised groups.

However, if you look at laissez-faire leadership as a management style rather than

as an economic philosophy, it can be used effectively to initiate positive change in
the same way that transformative and servant leadership styles do.

For example, a laissez-faire leader who oversees the R&D division for a
pharmaceutical company or biotech firm may surround herself with highly qualified
experts charged with developing new drugs to treat or cure cancer. A team led by a
laissez-faire leader does not make the managers objectives any less worthy than a
similar group led by a democratic or autocratic leader.

Laissez-faire leadership pros

Laissez-faire leadership styles tend to work best near the top of organizational
hierarchies, where executives build teams of experts such as directors and give
them wide latitude to run their departments. Teams focused on research and
development, conceptual or creative projects require autonomy. A laissez-faire
leadership style delegates decision-making to managers and senior staff with
expertise in their fields.

A positive laissez-faire leadership style:

Allows experts to function productively and challenges them to take personal

responsibility for their achievements and failures
Motivates people to perform optimally and gives them latitude to make correct
decisions that might not be supported in a more structured environment
Reinforces successful performance and leads to a higher retention of experts who
thrive in creative environments that support autonomous decision-making
Laissez-faire leadership cons

When laissez-faire leadership is used inappropriately in organizations, projects or

settings, it can create more problems than it resolves. If groups or team members
lack sufficient skills, experience or motivation to complete projects, the organization

A mismatched laissez-faire leadership style:

Results in a lack of accountability for organizations, groups or teams and failure to

achieve goals
Demonstrates a failure to properly advise, coach or educate people, which leads to
low performance
Leads to ineffective time management by teams, resulting in ambiguous objectives
and missed deadlines
Benefits of laissez-faire leadership

Managers who adopt a laissez-faire leadership style expect accountability from

people who report to them. Whether the laissez-faire leader is a CEO, department
director or group manager, he or she expects positive results.

Some people prefer working under autocratic managers because they dont want to
be held responsible for failures. For these people, a laissez-faire leadership style is a
Future laissez-faire leaders
To be successful in an age of daily productivity metrics reporting, laissez-faire
leaders need to establish milestones for staff. This means todays laissez-faire
leaders can no longer be completely hands off.
Contemporary laissez-faire leaders must:
Observe group and individual performance
Track results and stay on top of issues and problems
Give credit where credit is due and encourage individual responsibility
In summary, todays laissez-faire leaders must delegate authority without losing
sight of group objectives and individual performances.

4. Transactional
Transactional Leadership Theory

The transactional style of leadership was first described by Max Weber in

1947 and then by Bernard Bass in 1981. This style is most often used by
the managers. It focuses on the basic management process of controlling,
organizing, and short-term planning. The famous examples of leaders who
have used transactional technique include McCarthy and de Gaulle.
Transactional leadership involves motivating and directing followers
primarily through appealing to their own self-interest. The power of
transactional leaders comes from their formal authority and responsibility
in the organization. The main goal of the follower is to obey the
instructions of the leader. The style can also be mentioned as a telling
The leader believes in motivating through a system of rewards and
punishment. If a subordinate does what is desired, a reward will follow,
and if he does not go as per the wishes of the leader, a punishment will
follow. Here, the exchange between leader and follower takes place to
achieve routine performance goals.
These exchanges involve four dimensions:

Contingent Rewards: Transactional leaders link the goal to rewards,

clarify expectations, provide necessary resources, set mutually agreed
upon goals, and provide various kinds of rewards for successful
performance. They set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic,
and timely) goals for their subordinates.
Active Management by Exception: Transactional leaders actively
monitor the work of their subordinates, watch for deviations from rules
and standards and taking corrective action to prevent mistakes.
Passive Management by Exception: Transactional leaders intervene
only when standards are not met or when the performance is not as per
the expectations. They may even use punishment as a response to
unacceptable performance.
Laissez-faire: The leader provides an environment where the
subordinates get many opportunities to make decisions. The leader
himself abdicates responsibilities and avoids making decisions and
therefore the group often lacks direction.
Assumptions of Transactional Theory
Employees are motivated by reward and punishment.
The subordinates have to obey the orders of the superior.
The subordinates are not self-motivated. They have to be closely
monitored and controlled to get the work done from them.
Implications of Transactional Theory
The transactional leaders overemphasize detailed and short-term goals,
and standard rules and procedures. They do not make an effort to
enhance followers creativity and generation of new ideas. This kind of a
leadership style may work well where the organizational problems are
simple and clearly defined. Such leaders tend to not reward or ignore
ideas that do not fit with existing plans and goals.
The transactional leaders are found to be quite effective in guiding
efficiency decisions which are aimed at cutting costs and improving
productivity. The transactional leaders tend to be highly directive and
action oriented and their relationship with the followers tends to be
transitory and not based on emotional bonds.
The theory assumes that subordinates can be motivated by simple
rewards. The only transaction between the leader and the followers is
the money which the followers receive for their compliance and effort.
Difference between Transactional and Transformational Leaders
Transactional leadership
Transformational Leadership
Leadership is responsive
Leadership is proactive
Works within the organizational culture
Work to change the
organizational culture by implementing new ideas

Transactional leaders make employees achieve organizational objectives

through rewards and punishment Transformational leaders motivate and
empower employees to achieve companys objectives by appealing to
higher ideals and moral values
Motivates followers by appealing to their own self-interest
followers by encouraging them to transcend their own interests for those
of the group or unit
The transactional style of leadership is viewed as insufficient, but not bad,
in developing the maximum leadership potential. It forms as the basis for
more mature interactions but care should be taken by leaders not to
practice it exclusively, otherwise it will lead to the creation of an
environment permeated by position, power, perks, and politics.
Transactional leadership
Transactional leadership focuses on the exchanges that occur between
leaders and
followers (Bass 1985; 1990; 2000; 2008; Burns, 1978). These exchanges
allow leaders to
accomplish their performance objectives, complete required tasks,
maintain the current
organizational situation, motivate followers through contractual
agreement, direct behavior of
followers toward achievement of established goals, emphasize extrinsic
rewards, avoid
unnecessary risks, and focus on improve organizational efficiency. In turn,
leadership allows followers to fulfill their own self-interest, minimize
workplace anxiety, and
concentrate on clear organizational objectives such as increased quality,
customer service,
reduced costs, and increased production (Sadeghi & Pihie, 2012). Burns
(1978) operationalized
the concepts of both transformational and transactional leadership as
distinct leadership styles.
Transactional leadership theory described by Burns (1978) posited the
relationship between
leaders and followers as a series of exchanges of gratification designed to
organizational and individual gains. Transactional leadership evolved for
the marketplace of
fast, simple transactions among multiple leaders and followers, each
moving from transaction to
transaction in search of gratification. The marketplace demands
reciprocity, flexibility,

adaptability, and real-time cost-benefit analysis (Burns, 1978). Empirical

evidence supports the
relationship between transactional leadership and effectiveness in some
settings (Bass, 1985;
1999; 2000; Bass, Avolio, Jung, & Berson, 2003; Bass & Riggio, 2006;
Hater & Bass, 1988;
Zhu, Sosik, Riggio, & Yang, 2012). Today, researchers study transactional
leadership within the
continuum of the full range of leadership model (Bass & Riggio, 2006).
Some researchers
criticize transactional leadership.
Criticisms of transactional leadership
Burns (1978) argued that transactional leadership practices lead followers
to short-term
relationships of exchange with the leader. These relationships tend toward
shallow, temporary
exchanges of gratification and often create resentments between the
participants. Additionally, a
number of scholars criticize transactional leadership theory because it
utilizes a one-size-fits-all
universal approach to leadership theory construction that disregards
situational and contextual
factors related organizational challenges (Beyer, 1999; Yukl, 1999; 2011;
Yukl & Mahsud,
2010). Empirical support for transactional leadership typically includes
both transactional and
transformational behaviors (Gundersen et al., 2012; Liu, Liu, & Zeng,
2011). Next, this
manuscript reviews two recent articles featuring transactional leadership
Recent articles on transactional leadership
Liu et al. (2011) looked at the relationship between transactional
leadership and team
innovativeness. The authors focused on the potential moderating role of
emotional labor and
examined a mediating role for team efficacy. The authors intended to
contribute to the
leadership field by closing an identified gap in the literature with the
introduction of emotional
labor and team efficacy as important factors in the existing relationship
between transactional
leadership and team innovativeness. The authors predicted a significant
negative relationship
between transactional leadership and team innovativeness. The article
included an overview

discussion of teams, innovativeness, transactional leadership, emotional

labor, and team efficacy.
The authors assumed that transactional leadership could foster team
innovativeness in some
settings. The authors also assumed that emotional labor was a
moderating factor in that
relationship. Liu et al. (2011) conducted the study from the quantitative,
positivist, objectivist,
and confirmatory point of view. The authors hypothesized a correlation
between independent
and dependent variables and then set out to investigate and confirm that
relationship (Creswell,
2009). Liu et al. (2011) discussed several implications of their findings.
Emotional labor acts as
a boundary condition on the relationship between transactional leadership
and team
innovativeness. This knowledge helps deepen the understanding of the
context in which
transactional leadership leads to organizational effectiveness. Liu et al.
(2011) recommended
additional research on transactional leadership and other positive
organizational outcomes, and
additional research on other possible boundary conditions. The next
section addresses another
study on transactional leadership.
Groves and LaRocca (2011) studied both transactional and TL in the
context of ethical
behavior. In contrast to the full range of leadership model view of
transactional leadership as
part of a continuum of behaviors, Groves and LaRocca see transactional
leadership and TL as
distinct constructs underpinned by separate ethical foundations.
Specifically, transactional
leadership flows from teleological ethical values (utilitarianism) and TL
flows from
deontological ethical values (altruism, universal rights, Kantian principle,
etc.) (Groves &
LaRocca, 2011, p. 511). While an in-depth discussion of ethics is outside
the scope of this
manuscript, it is noteworthy that other authors (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999;
Singh & Krishnan,
2008) also discussed the relationship between ethics and transactional
leadership. The concepts
presented by Groves and LaRocca (2011) include corporate social
responsibility, ethics, TL,
transactional leadership, and managerial decision-making. The authors
examined ethics in

relation to leadership style and its impact on follower values and

corporate social responsibility.
The point of view presented by the authors is quantitative, positivist,
objective, and confirmatory
as evidenced by a research design that hypothesizes a correlation
between independent and
dependent variables and then set out to investigate and confirm that
relationship (Creswell,
2009). Liu et al. (2011) confirmed empirical support for their view. Author
limitations included: results oriented toward leaders description of what
they would do rather
than actual behavior, omission of measures designed to identify social
desirability, and inability
to generalize findings to the larger population. Additional limitations
mentioned included
potential common source and common method bias, lack of longitudinal
data, follower response
bias, and an inability to separate personal ethics from preferred leadership
style (Liu et al., 2011).
The authors suggested additional research to address these limitations.
Next, this manuscript
summarizes the key concepts in situational, transformational, and
transactional leadership.

Question #2
John Adair's
Action Centred Leadership
John Adair has been described by Sir John Harvey-Jones as, "without doubt
one of the formost thinkers on leadership in the world".
So, who is John Adair?
After graduating from Cambridge University, Adair was commissioned into
the Scots Guards. He later became a senior lecturer in military history and
adviser in leadership training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. In
1979 he was appointed the worlds first Professor of Leadership Studies at
the University of Surrey.
John Adair

As a (now) Visiting Lecturer in Leadership at the University of

Westminster, I have always looked up - as well as followed - to John Adair.
He was the leadership thinker who first awoke in me my passion for
leadership. As you may have guessed, this was thanks to the Scouts and
not university.
His model, Action-Centred Leadership, and the simple, practical and easy
to grasp thinking behind it, gave me the hope that I could be a good
leader. It then gave me the tools to start my own leadership journey and
stood me in good stead when I studied other leadership theories.
Today I still refer to John Adair's work in many of my leadership
development programmes. I have seen so many others recognise its
value. They just seem to get it. But what is "it"?
Action Centred Leadership
In any situation where a group of people are trying to achieve some goal,
one or more of those people will emerge and act as a leader to the others.
Look again at this sentence more closely. Break it down into elements.
What are they?
According to John Adair, there are three elements to all leadership
situations. They are:
The achievement of a goal or task. This may be the completion of a very
practical activity or it may be a less tangible goal. We know that effective
groups have clear goals shared by all members. Often the task is what
brings the group together in the first place.
The group of people performing the task. It is likely that the task will only
be achieved if all members of the group work together to the common
good. Therefore, the group itself has to be understood as an entity in its
own right.
Each individual member of the group involved in the task. While the group
will take on a life of its own, individuals do not lose their own identity.
Their needs as people must continue to be met if their allegiance to the
group, and their motivation to achieve the task, is to be sustained.
This approach, "Action-Centred Leadership", is centred on the actions of
the leader. The leader has to balance the needs from each of the three
elements. The effective leader is the one who keeps all three in balance;
that is who attends to all three at the same time. If any one element is
ignored, the others are unlikely to succeed.
Action-Centred Leadership

At the same time, the three elements can conflict with each other. For
example, pressure on time and resources often increases pressure on a
group to concentrate on the task, to the possible detriment of the people
involved. But if group and individual needs are forgotten, much of the
effort spent may be misdirected.
In another example, taking time creating a good team spirit without
applying effort to the task is likely to mean that the team will lose its focus
through lack of achievement.
An approach that a skilled leader might take, in any challenge, is to
balance the needs of all three elements as follows:
Identify and evaluate the requirements of the task.
Communicate these to the group and gain their commitment.
Plan the achievement of the task with the group.
Identify resources within the group and allocate responsibility to
Monitor and evaluate progress of the whole group and of individual
Communicate feedback to the group and support, praise, encourage
Review plans, and make changes, with the group until the task is
One of the best known and most influential of functional theories of
leadership, used in many leadership development programmes, is John
Adair's "Action-Centred Leadership".
John Adair developed a model of Action-Centred Leadership has
connecting circles that overlap because:
the task can only be performed by the team and not by one person
the team can only achieve excellent task performance if all the individuals
are fully developed
the individuals need the task to be challenged and motivated
Adairs model challenged trait theory by focusing on what leaders do. He
showed that leadership could be taught and did not depend on the traits a
person had.
The 8 Functions of Leadership
Adair noted the following 8 key functions for which team leaders are
responsible. (Examples are given in brackets)
Defining the task, (by setting clear objectives through SMART goals)

Planning, (by looking at alternative ways to achieve the task and having
contingency plans in case of problems)
Briefing the team, (by creating the right team climate, fostering synergy,
and making the most of each individual through knowing them well)
Controlling what happens, (by being efficient in terms of getting maximum
results from minimum resources)
Evaluating results, (by assessing consequences and identifying how to
improve performance)
Motivating individuals, (by using both external motivators such as rewards
and incentives as well as eliciting internal motivators on the part of each
team player)
Organising people, (by organising self and others through good time
management, personal development, and delegation)
Setting an example, (by the recognition that people observe their leaders
and copy what they do).
Criticism of the Model
Some people consider Adair's Three Circles Model too simplistic and to be
outdated as it was developed in the 1970s
Implications for the nature versus nurture debate
This question of whether leaders are born or made is part of the whole
question of whether human behaviour is due to nature or nurture. It is a
short leap from functional leadership theory, to the belief that if one
person can do something, then others can also learn to do it. The
implication that leaders are made and not necessarily born with the
necessary traits for leadership, opened up the possibility of leadership