Transformational leadership theory

By Priya Chetty on April 16, 2012

No concept is free from criticisms. Transformational leadership theory is not an exception to it. Though seems effective, there are numerous criticisms about transformational leadership theory (Tracey and Hinkin, 1998).

What is transformational leadership?

Transformational leaders are believed to touch their followers psychologically and create an impact on them (Avolio, Bass and Jung, 1999). They interact with their followers, share their views and thoughts openly with them.  They are easily approachable and trustworthy (Tejeda, Scandura and Pillai, 2001). They are ready to lend their ears and shoulders when their followers are in need of their help. They live a life of purpose and serve as role models to others in encouraging and helping their followers. Transformational leaders are not only in profit-making companies and political parties. They are found everywhere. Transformational leaders sacrifice their lives for the well being of others (Podsakoff, Mackenzie and Boomer 1996). Money is secondary to them when compared with human values and relationships. Thus they make their followers become emotionally connected with them. Evidences and events from the past show that transformational leadership theory is related with the traits of an individual which makes it much more complicated than other theories of leadership.

The concept of transformational leadership argues that leadership is an in-built quality (Yukl, 1999). This makes it difficult to teach individuals to exhibit transformational leadership.  Yet another drawback of this theory is that it is very broad and hence difficult to conceptualize.


  • Podsakoff P M, Mackenzie S B and Boomer W H (1996), Transformational Leader behaviors and substitutes for leadership as determinants of employee satisfaction, commitment, trust and organizational citizenship behavior, Journal of Management, USA.
  • Yukl G (1999), An evaluation of conceptual weakness in transformational and charismatic leadership theories, Prentice-Hall, pp 285-305, New Jersey.
  • Tracey J B and Hinkin T R (1998), Transformational leadership or effective managerial practices?, Leadership Quarterly, pp 31-52, USA.
  • Tejeda M J, Scandura T A and Pillai R (2001), The MLQ revisited: Psychometric managerial practices?, Group and Organization Management, pp 220-236, USA.
  • Avolio B J, Bass B M and Jung D I (1999), Re-examining the components of transformational and transactional leadership using multifactor leadership, Cengage Learning, USA.