Nav: Home

These four values lessen the power of transformational leadership

May 16, 2019

Transformational leadership is considered one of the most effective ways to motivate and inspire employees. However, new research finds cultural values significantly limit its effectiveness.

Marcus Credé, an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University, says the leadership model earned a reputation as the gold standard because it provides clear guidelines for managers to follow, and studies have shown it improves employee performance. The four core components of transformational leadership (see below) are widely studied and taught in business schools and featured in management textbooks.

Because of its widespread acceptance and implementation, Credé and co-authors Jaehee Jong, Northern Illinois University; and Peter Harms, University of Alabama, reviewed nearly 200 studies of more than 57,000 employees from 34 countries to determine if culture plays a role. Their meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, found it does. Transformational leadership was not as effective in cultures:
  • High on gender egalitarianism and humane orientation. Individuals feel men and women should be treated equally, and they encourage humane behavior such as generosity, fairness and kindness.
  • Low on future orientation. Individuals are less likely to delay gratification, plan and invest in the future.
  • Low on uncertainty avoidance. Individuals are more comfortable with uncertainty and change, and do not rely heavily on rules or policies to reduce the uncertainty of future events.
"In most western countries, transformational leadership simply doesn't have a strong relationship with how employees behave and function," Credé said. "This includes the U.S., but especially Western and Northern Europe. There the relationship is almost zero."

Distorted view

Transformational leadership is not ineffective across all cultures. In fact, the meta-analysis found a strong relationship in developing countries. Credé says up to this point, much of our understanding of transformational leadership has been based on studies focusing solely on employee feedback and measured only a single point in time, providing an incomplete picture of its effectiveness.

"We may have gotten a distorted sense of how much this leadership style matters, simply because a lot of the work took a shortcut approach to doing the research," Credé said. "As a result, it overestimated the importance of transformational leadership."

In the paper, Credé and his colleagues outlined other factors that may explain the cultural differences. For example, if most leaders generally follow the principles of transformational leadership, any one leader will not stand out and have little impact on employees as a result. Just the opposite may be true in some developing countries - the effects may be magnified because such leadership is so rare.

"It's also possible that organizations in American and Western European countries are so effective at all the things that produce high functioning employees - training, selection, performance management - that being an effective leader doesn't add much to making employees highly effective," Credé said.

Four components of transformational leadership
  • Idealized influence: The leader is a role model and behaves the way he/she wants employees to behave.
  • Inspirational motivation: The leader presents a vision for the future of the organization to inspire employees.
  • Individualized consideration: The leader develops one-on-one relationships to help employees reach their potential.
  • Intellectual stimulation: The leader encourages employees to be creative and challenges them to go above and beyond.
-end-


Iowa State University

Related Leadership Articles:

Rice study assesses college leadership training programs
A new study from psychologists at Rice University found they teach students about leadership, but additional measures are needed to evaluate how they impact students' real-life leadership skills.
These four values lessen the power of transformational leadership
Transformational leadership is considered one of the most effective ways to motivate and inspire employees.
Preventing toxic work environments through ethical leadership
Recently published research from SDSU management professor, Dr. Gabi Eissa and University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire management professor, Dr.
Women, your inner circle may be key to gaining leadership roles
According to a new Notre Dame study, women who communicate regularly with a female-dominated inner circle are more likely to attain high-ranking leadership positions.
Feminine leadership traits: Nice but expendable frills?
The first study to examine tradeoffs in masculine versus feminine leadership traits reveals that stereotypically feminine traits -- like being tolerant and cooperative -- are viewed as desirable but ultimately superfluous add-ons.
Men in leadership gain from psychopathic behavior, women punished
People with psychopathic tendencies are slightly more likely to be a company boss, but a new study finds men are allowed a pass for those inclinations while women are punished.
Leadership and adaptive reserve are not associated with blood pressure control
Primary care leadership and practice resilience can strengthen organizational culture.
Values and gender shape young adults' entrepreneurial and leadership
Young adults who are driven by extrinsic rewards and money and less by a sense of security are more likely to want to become entrepreneurs and leaders, according to a recent study.
Ethical leadership can have negative consequences, Baylor University researchers say
A new Baylor University study published in the Journal of Business Ethics reveals that ethical leadership compounded by job-hindrance stress and supervisor-induced stress can lead to employee deviance and turnover.
Gay men and lesbian women less likely to be employed in a leadership position
Gay men and lesbian women face discrimination when seeking leadership positions due to the sound of their voice, a new study in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour has found.
More Leadership News and Leadership Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.