Applicability of transformative leadership qualities in remote working environments

By Sneha Naik and Priya Chetty on June 29, 2021

Remote working refers to workers working remotely away from the confines of their office space (English, 2020). However, organizations opting for remote working face key challenges that include lack of work discipline, team communication, security challenges, productivity, recruiting new employees etc (Cook, 2019). Transformative leadership encourages and motivates workers towards innovation and change, leading to an organization’s potential growth and success (Lewis, 2017). Technology, financial, entertainment, are some core sectors, where transformative leadership would be advantageous for ensuring organizational success.

Key properties of transformative leadership

Authors have identified four core pillars of transformative leadership (Farnsworth, et al., 2018). When effectively combined, they aid managers to become exceptional leaders and role models.

Four I's of transformative leadership
Figure 1: Four I’s of transformative leadership (Farnsworth et al, 2018)
  1. Idealized influence: Leaders who exhibit idealized influence are ideal role models for their followers, who lead by example. Such leaders engage in a high degree of ethical behaviour and are strategic decision-makers who are trusted and well-respected by their subordinates.
  2. Individualized consideration: It refers to the magnitude which leaders undertake, to attend to the needs of their subordinates by acting as a coach, mentor or advisor.
  3. Inspirational motivation: Motivational approach applied by leaders to motivate their followers towards commitment to the organization’s vision, and fulfilment of its broader goals and objectives.
  4. Intellectual stimulation: Applied by transformative leaders through encouraging disruptive ideas and stimulating the individual creativity and critical thinking of their followers for attaining continued growth and success.

Transformative leaders are charismatic

Transformative leaders who are charismatic tending to have a huge influence on their followers. They undertake complex challenges empowering their followers to be creative in their pursuit of excellence  (Lewis, 2017). They create a strong workplace culture based on a genuine, collaborative and open-communication strategy, wherein employees are encouraged to work for achieving the broader organisational goals.

Transformative leaders provide motivation without micro-managing

Transformational leaders entrust confidence in their employees by making them accountable and responsible by taking ownership of their jobs leading a greater workplace autonomy (Stone & Dulebohn, 2019).  Such leaders encourage their employees to be innovative and challenge existing norms for leading to better potential solutions

Transformative leaders have a positive influence on employee well-being

According to a study by Jacobs, et al. (2013) that was conducted on employees of various German information and communication companies, transformational leadership was found to have a positive influence on employee well-being; based on trust and creating value to employees. Transformative leaders are empathetic and show concern towards their subordinates, helping them develop their skills and behaviours by continually motivating them.

Transformative leadership and remote working environments

Globalization has led to organizations operating in a global environment, extended beyond boundaries with a culturally diverse workforce; and increase in remote working environments (Cannon & Elford, 2017). Under such a complex and diverse work environment, transformative kind of leadership has been found to yield better results. One of the key issues faced by organizations allowing employees to work remotely is the application of communication tools in an efficient and effective manner in order to maximise productivity.

Transformative leaders encourage innovation

Transformative leaders encourage innovation and creativity and are good at adapting to changing business scenarios. Such leaders are good decision-makers who command trust and respect from their followers. A good example is how the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic necessitated the need for remote working for ensuring business continuity. Organisations like Amazon, under the transformative leadership of Jeff Bezos, rose to the opportunity and created disruption in online retail, by ensuring contactless delivery even under the Covid-19 situation boosting sales for the company (Palmer, 2020).

Transformative leaders are visionaries

Transformative leaders are visionaries who inspire and motivate their followers for creating innovative ideas and adapt to change for overall success. According to a study by Wojtara-Perry (2016) on the success of global virtual teams, a positive correlation has been found between transformative leadership approach, employee productivity and leadership success. The study showed that motivation was a key factor for boosting employee productivity and job satisfaction, aiding organizational growth. Also, Kelloway, et al. (2003) in their research on undergraduate psychology students at a Canadian university found that intellectual stimulation and charismatic characteristics of transformative leaders helped motivate even individuals working remotely.

Transformational leaders are good communicators

Transformational leaders are good communicators who know how to get the best out of their people, by having an open and honest communication policy. The study by Vought (2017) on leadership in virtual environments, highlighted that the transformational leadership style was most considered most effective for solution-based communication under remote working environments. This was due to the transformational leaders’ ability to communicate effectively to the team to get the desired results.

Transformational leaders are empathetic towards their employee needs. Vought (2017) in her research findings on leadership success in virtual environments, has shown that this attribute of transformational leaders has resulted in increased sense of emotional attachment and value creation for employees resulting in reduced employee turnover.

Key challenges in transformative leadership

A key challenge faced by remote transformative leaders is implementing the appropriate communication modes and tools for ensuring proper coordination among team members for enhancing maximum workplace productivity. Leaders also find it challenging to continually motivate their workforce as remote working employees at times, tend to lack workplace discipline due to their working in isolation (Wojtara-Perry, 2016). Another major challenge faced by leaders is ensuring business continuity leading to the achievement of organisational goals.

Effectual address of challenges

Transformative leaders can address the above challenges by adopting ways to mitigate the issues. For instance, they can set clear communication channels and guidelines which would be easier for employees to understand and work upon. There should be a two-way communication channel for employees to get their grievances addressed at the earliest. There should be clarity in the objectives set out to be achieved by the employees with constant motivation and mentoring by the leaders. This would help employees to work to their maximum potential, even under a remote working environment to achieve organizational growth and success.

References

  • Cannon, F. & Elford, N., 2017. The Agility Mindset – How Reframing Flexible Working Delivers Competitive Advantage. New York: Springer International Publishing.
  • Cook, S., 2019. Making a Success of Managing and Working Remotely. Ely: IT Governance Ltd. https://www.google.co.in/books/edition/Making_a_Success_of_Managing_and_Working/LKKhDwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0
  • English, L., 2020. Office Optional – How to Build a Connected Culture with Virtual Teams. Dayton: Centric Consulting.
  • Farnsworth, D. et al., 2018. Transformational Leadership: The Transformation of Managers and Associates, Florida: University of Florida. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/HR/HR02000.pdf
  • Jacobs, C. et al., 2013. The Influence of Transformational Leadership on Employee Well-Being: Results From a Survey of Companies in the Information and Communication Technology Sector in Germany. J Occup Environ Med.. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 55(7), pp. 772-778.
  • Kelloway, E. K. et al., 2003. Remote transformational leadership. Leadership and Organizational Development Journal, 24(3), pp. 163-171. Lewis, E., 2017. Transformative Leadership – Leadership and Change Management. Verlag: GRIN Verlag.
  • Palmer, A., 2020. www.cnbc.com. [Online]
  • Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/29/how-amazon-managed-the-coronavirus-crisis-and-came-out-stronger.html
    [Accessed 7 January 2021].
  • Stone, L. D. & Dulebohn, H. J., 2019. The Only Constant in HRM Today is Change. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing, Incorporated
  • Vought, X. W., 2017. E-leadership in Practice: The Components of Transformational Leadership in Virtual Business Environments. Fisher Digital Publications, Volume 8, pp. 1-116. https://fisherpub.sjfc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1326&context=education_etd
  • Wojtara-Perry, S., 2016. The Impact of Transformational Leadership Style on the Success of Global Virtual Teams. Walden Dissertations and Doctoral Studies, pp. 1-184

Sneha Naik

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