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Transformational leadership sub-dimensions and their link to leaders’ personality and performance

February 1, 2016 • Leadership Styles, Transformational Leadership


What is Transformational Leadership?

 

Anika Deinert, Astrid C. Homan, Diana Boer, Sven C. Voelpel, Daniela Gutermanna.
The Leadership Quarterly 26 (2015) 1095-1120.

First introduced by James MacGregor Burns in 1978 in his book “Leadership”, transforming leadership is a process in which “leaders and followers help each other to advance to a higher level of morale and motivation.” Bernard M. Bass (1985), extended the work of Burns. He explored the psychological mechanisms behind transformational and transactional leadership. You can learn more about transformational leadership and review examples of transformational leaders in this excellent slideshare presentation by Douglas Bush.


Introduction

Introduced over thirty years ago, transformational leadership is defined as a “meaningful and creative exchange between leaders and their followers resulting in vision-driven change”. It comprises four sub-dimensions: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration.

The authors note the strong empirical evidence for the effectiveness of transformational leadership and its effectiveness over any other leadership style (E.g. transactional and laissez-faire).

Transformational leaders achieve (reforming) goals by getting followers to put aside self-interest to achieve team and organizational goals and optimal performance. Since most studies view transformational leadership as an overall measure of leadership effectiveness, the goal of this meta-analysis was to explore the relationship between the Big Five personality traits and the four sub-dimensions of tranformational leadership and to assess whether personality traits impacted this leadership style equally.


Method

The 58 studies in this meta-analysis included a variety of leader performance measures. The Multi Factor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) was the most commonly used transformational leadership measure. Leader performance ratings were provided by followers, observers, or superiors. The samples comprised mainly male leaders and an equal number of male and female followers from business, university and army settings.


Transformational leadership quote

 

Findings

  • Four out of the five Big 5 personality traits correlated with four transformational leadership sub-dimensions: Extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness correlated positively with transformational leadership while neuroticism did not.
  • Three out of four transformational leadership sub-dimensions correlated with leader performance: inspirational motivation manifested the strongest connection to leader performance, followed by individualized consideration and intellectual stimulation. Idealized influence was not significantly related to leader performance.
  • Extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness had significant indirect effects on leader performance via the overall measure of transformational leadership while there was no association between neuroticism and leader performance via transformational leadership.

Conclusions

The authors concluded that personality traits are differentially associated with transformational leadership in general and with its four sub-dimensions in particular. Substantial differences were uncovered, with inspirational motivation having the strongest impact on overall leader performance and idealized influence having the weakest impact among the four sub-dimensions.


Practical Implications

The research has implications for the selection and development of transformational leaders. This meta-analysis demonstrated that different personality trait combinations affect this leadership style sub-dimensions and that these (except idealized influence) have positive effects on leader performance. While no one personality trait is associated with effective leaders, different personality trait combinations translate to leadership behaviors associated with success. Practitioners can use this research to identify ideal personality traits when selecting transformational leaders, as well as areas for developmental focus.


Method

The 58 studies in this meta-analysis included a variety of leader performance measures. The Multi Factor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) was the most commonly used transformational leadership measure. Leader performance ratings were provided by followers, observers, or superiors. The samples comprised mainly male leaders and an equal number of male and female followers from business, university and army settings.

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