Three Behavioral Theories Of Leadership Management Essay

Leadership theories explore how leaders can influence humankind or employees to fulfil mission and vision of organizations. Traditionally, transactional leadership has prevailed throughout the industrial revolution with pay for work process. Although as time passes, leadership theories developed mirror those of quasi-transactional theories of Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, and Kaizen. These theories based on outcomes of production with the spirit of collaboration from employees to increase awareness of each task to promote or negate benefits to the company.

Ruggieri (2009) related the leadership style displayed by the leader to the organization’s performance and success. Leaders of an organization must anticipate and adapt to change by using the leadership style that fits the current situation. For an organization to grow and be successful in a changing environment, leaders must articulate vision, goals, and objectives and make sound business decisions that will lead the organization to success. In leading organizations to success, Kanter (2000) stated, “effective leaders cultivate an environment where openness is encouraged and where collaboration is valued” (p. 32).

Partnerships both inside and outside the organization enhance the organization’s knowledge and reach into the market, and provide greater expertise and experience than if a more closed position perspective were maintained (Kanter, 2000). Effective leaders also draw on the components of different leadership styles behaviors that will provide the best approach or decision based on the situation and environment at hand (Spears, 2004). The succeeding sections discuss three behavioral theories of leadership, which include transformational leadership, transactional leadership, and servant leadership.

Transformational Leadership Theory

Transformational leadership theory is based on the ability of the leader to provide an atmosphere, which engages their employees and hinged on the concept of spirit, via connectedness. Transformational leadership is the ability to motivate and to encourage intellectual stimulation through inspiration (Avolio, Zhu, Koh, & Bhatia, 2004; Dvir, Eden, Avolio, & Shamir, 2002). McColl-Kennedy and Anderson (2005) further defined transformational leadership style as “guidance through individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, and idealized influence” (p. 116).

Transformational leadership brings with it a degree of charisma and motivation (Avolio & Yammarino, 2002). Transformational leaders can influence and inspire others to succeed and grow. Transformational leaders model the behavior they expect of their employees through transparent information sharing, enthusiasm, and optimism. The leader creative in creating solutions and encourages the employee to do the same. Transformational leaders are risk-takers and encourage others to take risks, too. These leaders encourage growth through advanced education, certifications, and interactions.

Bass and Steidlmeier (1999) noted transformational leaders’ level of involvement had the ability to enhance creativity, innovation, and performance from their teams. Transformational leaders must have the fortitude and adaptability to respond to and learn from both internal and external stimuli of changes within the organizations. Such leaders must proactively mitigate any negative impact on the project, as well ensuring the overall satisfaction of the team members as factors in the projects’ successful completion and team performance (Ronning, 2004; Sanders et al., 2003).

Bass (2000) had widely defended the potential of the transformational leadership to improve the post-modern organizational landscape. According to Bass, transformational leaders raise the awareness of their constituencies about what are essential increase concerns for achievement, self-actualization, and ideals. They inspire followers to go beyond their own self-interests for the good of the group, organization, or community. For Bass, true transformational leadership can be identified by its adherence to the highest levels of moral and ethical standards. Bass (1997) says that leaders are authentically transformational when they raise awareness of what is right, valued, and important; when they help satisfy increase followers’ needs for success, change; and when they reposition followers to go outside their self-interests for the good of their group or organization.

True transformational leadership asks for sacrifice on the part of the follower, but it does not necessarily require that an individual’s interests to be swept aside for the good of the organization. “The transformational leader strives to achieve a true consensus in aligning personal and organization interests” (Bass, 1998, p. 176). Transformational leaders act like moral agents and engage in joint understanding of employees, with the ultimate goal of converting these employees to become leaders themselves (Inkson & Moss, 1993). Transformational leaders are most of the time interested in producing quality and quantity results from those they lead, but also attempt to provide an environment in which the individual’s own career and personal goals are realized through the organization. In this way, efficiency can be increased, and the entire organization can benefit on the improvement of individuals (Seltzer & Bass, 1990).

It is the transformational leadership style that offers managers the greatest ability to deal with this rapidly changing workplace (Bass, 2000), especially in a global economy where change is inevitable. Wallace (1993) concluded that complex organizational and environmental factors require the flexibility that transformational leadership style offers because it enables managers to include workers on decisions, and can empower workers to have an increasing level of control over their work performance. Organizations led by transformational leaders usually perform at a believed greater level, with a higher level of employee moral (Bass, 1990).

Bryant (2003) claimed that transformational leadership results to motivation and commitment for followers in order to have above average organizational performance. Robbins and Judge (2009) further concluded that transformational leadership is correlated with lower employee turnover, higher productivity, lower stress, and higher employee satisfaction. Transformational leaders are able to enhance their leadership style based on the situation, and transform that style into their subordinates to become innovative and creative in their decision-making process (Chung & Chia-Hung, 2009). Transformational leadership is based on the leader-member relationship that fosters a greater degree of trust and mutual understanding expected between the members in maintaining that relationship. Members in a transformational leadership framework cooperate more often with their leaders and gain their leader’s full support, confidence, encouragement, and patience, and this in return forms a lasting relationship bond between the leaders and the employees (Chung & Chia-Hung, 2009).

Boga and Ensari (2009) stated, “traditionally, the magnitude of the organizational leader’s influence on the workforce has been tied to his or her leadership style” (p. 237). Transformational leaders seeks to influence the interests of their followers in the workplace, accept change as being a part of life, and motivate their followers to pursue the purpose and mission of the organization above their own egocentricities (Boga & Ensari, 2009). The transformational leader/follower relationship is viewed as one of shared interests and is comprised of four distinct characteristics (idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration) that are closely related to the approach leaders use (Boga & Ensari).

Finally, transformational leadership occurs when a leader inspires followers to share a vision and enables those who follow to formulate their own vision for themselves and the organization to achieve a higher level of performance. Transformational leaders allow those they lead a greater degree of self-direction in the decision-making process that allows the leader to be more successful leading the organization to success. Transformational leadership is somewhat similar to servant leadership, but most researchers agree that the transformational leadership style makes better leaders in organizations (Bass, 1990).

Transformational leadership, as noted by Bass and Avolio (1993) has four defining principles that included idealized influence, individualized consideration, inspirational motivation, and intellectual stimulation. Idealized influence means the transformational leader works with followers to encourage independence, awareness, and maturation as a means to an end, where followers participate in the mission and vision of the organization. Inspirational motivation means the transformational leader is able to inspire followers with the intent to share in the goals of the organization. Intellectual stimulation means the transformational leader acknowledges his or her followers as talented and encourages input while re-evaluating assumptions for beliefs and values. The leader ignites creativity in followers, which may result in productivity for the organization. Individualized consideration means respecting the uniqueness of each person, while working with him or her to facilitate the maximization of potential. Leaders recognize the role and importance of involving followers in the establishment of a healthy organizational culture and climate.

These four factors enable leaders to create an environment wherein team members clearly understood the tasks of the project, both holistically as a team and individually. The four factors of transformational leadership enable the leader to create a level of respect felt by members of the entire project. Team members had a proactive level of interest, concern, and inspirational motivation to become actively engaged in multiple levels of effective communication, thereby identifying the impact of each member’s role in project completion (Bass & Avolio, 1993).

An effective platform created by transformational leaders induces team cohesiveness on numerous aspects (Ruggieri, 2009). Research has provided evidence that transformational leadership in both traditional face-to-face teams and virtual teams has the components to produce multiple levels of group cohesiveness. Members became empowered to make greater contributions to the team, thus constructing an effective team environment of problem solving and innovative solutions (Jung & Sosik, 2002; Ruggieri, 2009).

Yardley et al. (2007) also noted transformational leaders encompass the aspect of preparing members of the team to become transformational by increasing their level of participation and satisfaction resulting in increased team performance in creative implementation creative and effective change. The transformational leadership framework has a tendency of creating domino effects in producing and creating potential leaders within multiple levels of an organization (Masood et al., 2006; Yardley et al., 2007). This form of communication and development within traditional collocated teams and virtual teams was indicative to producing effective leadership participation that enhances team performance.

Transactional Leadership

Transformational leadership gained prominence as the leadership style of the 21st Century. The concept of transformational leadership began to emerge in the late 1980s, particularly in research writings about education. According to Bass (1990), transformational leadership is inspirational leadership style that influences followers to achieve extraordinary performance in a context of large-scale innovation and change. There are times when the concept signified a suitable type of leadership for organizations taking up the challenges of reformatting and reorganizing. Today, this concept is applied in most developed countries worldwide (Leithwood, 1992).

Transactional leadership theory often presents a more traditional view of team leaders compelling team members to improve their performance on a reward and reprimand based system (Yardley & Nealy, 2007). Transactional leadership’s main characteristic is separateness; there is a line between the leader and the follower, with the potential to leave individuals feeling abandoned and in moral poverty (Avolio, Walumbwa, & Weber, 2009; Hauser, 2007). A transactional leader uses rewards as a way of managing subordinates’ behaviors and employs management by exception (Bass, 1985).

The transactional leadership theory includes three dimensions. These dimensions include contingent reward, management by exception–active and passive leadership (Bass & Avolio, 2000). Contingent-reward “is the degree to which the leader sets up helpful transactions or exchanges with followers: The leader clarifies expectations and establishes the rewards for meeting these expectations” (Judge & Piccolo, 2004, p. 755). Management-by-exception is the degree to which managers intervene when issues, problems, or mistakes occur. An active management-by-exception involves leaders who monitor the performance of their subordinates throughout the course of the task or activity. This allows the leader to track whether mistakes happen in line with the completion of the task or activity. A passive management-by-exception on the other hand considers leaders who are unaware of mistakes within their team until his/her subordinates report the issues or the problems that happened. In transactional leadership, the leaders appeal to their subordinates’ self-interest through rewards in order to achieve the team’s objectives.

In the team setting, leaders who are solely transactional leaders created an environment built upon positive and negative reinforcement (Ruggieri, 2009). The reinforcement came in the form of compliments and awards in money and gifts when milestones reached completion during the life of the project. Transactional leaders used negative reinforcement when team members miss milestones or fail to complete project deadlines, generally in the forms of chastisement, censorship, and in some cases, release from the organization (Ruggieri, 2009).

Sanders et al. (2003) indicated most leaders utilizing this leadership style exhibited less confidence in their ability to lead or make an impact within the organization. It is important to express that nearly all leaders in a virtual or in a traditional team environment have utilized the transactional leadership theory as part of decision-making (Ulmer, 2005). The transactional leadership theory is framed around an award-based system, which motivates followers to contribute to the success of the team.

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership theory suggests that the leader places the good of those led over the self-interest of the leader and promotes the idea of valuing and developing by sharing their power and prestige with those they lead (Greenleaf, 1977). Greenleaf (1970, 1977) introduced theoretical concepts to the body of leadership literature on servant leadership. Greenleaf, who is the founder of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, created the idea of servant leadership after reading Nobel Laureate Herman Hesse’s (1956) Journey to the East, a story about a spiritual pilgrimage of a band of men on a fairy-tale journey.

The term ‘servant leadership’ may not be familiar to a large number of individuals or corporations, but many organizations have adopted and embraced this concept within their leadership structure. Servant leadership is radically changing how leaders lead and treat subordinates under one’s area of responsibility in the organization that creates a caring and understanding atmosphere within the organization (Chung & Chia-Hung, 2009).

Greenleaf (1970) stated, “Caring for other persons is the foundation upon which a decent society is built” (p. 54). Transformational leadership and servant leadership have several similar characteristics, but are not quite the same in their approach to leading subordinates. Servant leadership is based on the notion of egalitarianism and assumes that the leader is no better than those led, but considered equal in value (Greenleaf, 1977).

Bass (2000), as well as Farling, Stone, and Winston (1999), see parallels between transformational leadership and servant leadership. However, while the theory of transformational leadership says that leaders need such traits as vision, credibility, trust, etc., the theory of servant leadership argues that leaders must place the needs of their followers ahead of their own. Serving and leading at the same time has found to be a constant characteristic of servant leaders. Among the other characteristics that servant leaders have been said to need are: listening, empathy, awareness, healing, persuasion, ability to conceptualize, foresight, stewardship, commitment to growth, and commitment to building community (Spears, 2004).

The main feature of this leadership style is the servant leader provides resources and support without expecting followers to admit that leading by example is important to them. Instead, this type of leader assumes a servant first position (Smith, Montagno, & Kuzmenko, 2004), and expects others to work for the collective good of the company, rather than for the leader as representative of the company.

Servant leaders, according to Greenleaf (as cited in Spears, 2005), are not initially motivated to pursue leadership. However, they accept this role in response to the urgings of others, and in response to a perceived need for their expertise and service in such a situation. The servant leader is expected to be knowledgeable regarding his or her role in promoting the organization or group’s goals and to ensure that his or her followers are collectively advancing the objectives of the organization or group (Spears, 2005).

Servant leadership has taken on a greater importance in recent years not only in corporate and religious organizations, but also in educational institutions (Cozby, 2001). Servant leaders in schools and universities should have a genuine desire to help others, and a shared vision of taking on the role of servant to its student body. Herman and Marlowe (2005) asserted that leaders should be a servant first in order to transition from a classroom environment to a community of caring. Greenleaf (1977) concluded that if someone wants to have true meaning in life, they must first seek out ways to be a servant to others.

Servant leadership is viewed as a significant contributor to leadership effectiveness in organizations and institutions. Practitioners have given due attention to servant leadership in recent years because the workplace and business world is more transparent, competitive, global, inclusive and demographically diverse (Bryant, 2003). The concept of servant leadership shares similarities with the concept of transformational leadership, which produces a pre-determined outcome when the leader empowers followers to achieve organizational goals based on their own innovation and creativity. According to Sendjaya and Sarros (2002), a reason for the shortage of research in servant leadership is that the notion of “servant as leader” may be perceived as a weak leader (p. 41).

Servant leaders emphasize developing their followers’ personal potential and enabling their personal growth and self-interests. Leadership is about relationships, and the principles of servant leadership are the inherent characteristics for the leader to lead by the heart with a greater degree of humility and honesty. Servant-led organizations should be built on a leadership style where ideas are welcomed and relationships are nurtured. Servant leaders take a different approach from that of traditional leaders who seek to harness and maintain their power base. When a servant leadership culture has been established at an organization, servant leaders lead by example, and are expected to help those around them achieve their personal and professional goals.

Servant leadership does come with some reservations because some employees will try to take advantage of leaders who demonstrate this leadership style and reduce the leader’s ability to lead (Spears, 2004), in this instance, servant-leaders are able to overcome this by instilling in workers a sense of the importance of teamwork and shared responsibilities. Peer pressure is remarkably effective in encouraging employees to do the right thing and preventing them from challenging leadership for selfish and personal reasons. Servant leaders have a better chance of preventing such conflicts because they have earned the trust and respect of the followers in the organization (Bass, 1990).

Another dilemma in practicing servant leadership is the desire to practice individualism and competiveness that nurtures selfish or ego driven pride in the workplace or institution (Bass 1997, 2002). Organizations with a culture that promotes an authoritarian hierarchy will greatly hinder servant leadership and could be a major cause of organizational decline and failure (Boga & Ensari, 2009). Most researchers agree that authoritarian hierarchy and egotism are the “evil twins” that can inhibit the implementation of servant leadership, and may be two of the reasons why many institutions and organizations exhibit a high level of unethical behavior (Bass, 2000).

Servant leadership has not been a leadership trait of recent indoctrinated leadership style just in the case of the U.S. Army as a preferred or recommended leadership style. Bryant (2003) concluded that servant leadership is more concerned with the emotional well being of followers than transformational leadership is. Transformational leaders, on the other hand, do seek to inspire followers not only an intellectual level, but also on an emotional one. That is, they try to maintain a positive attitude regarding the work being performed.

Comparison between the Behavioral Theories of Leadership

Two of the most popular leadership styles currently discussed by researchers are transformational and transactional leadership styles (Boga & Ensari, 2009). Over the last decade, considerable research effort has been invested into understanding the processes through which transformational leadership relates to followers attitudes, behavior, and performance beyond their own self-interest for the good of the group (Bass, 2000). However, apart from these two leadership styles, servant leadership style has also been emerging in fields such as military organizations. Servant leadership theory suggests that the leader places the good of those led over the self-interest of the leader and promotes the idea of valuing and developing by sharing their power and prestige with those they lead (Greenleaf, 1977).

A theoretical analysis of transformational and servant leadership theories suggests rival consequences for organizational success on the best leadership style. Transformational leadership is defined as having four separate elements: charismatic leadership/idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (Bass, 1996). Servant leadership has six different components: valuing people, developing people, building community, displaying authenticity, providing leadership, sharing leadership (Greenleaf 1970; 1977).

Transformational leadership and servant leadership in organizational settings has experienced a significant progression in terms of both theory development and empirical research studies (Boga & Ensari, 2009). Based on this research, transformational leaders are one of the most important factors in motivating others to meet organizational goals. Researchers agree that leaders must encourage, reward, motivate, and discipline, mostly through their leadership style, and encourage the development of team relationships inside and outside the group (Ruggieri, 2009). Transformational leaders motivate followers to work for inspiring goals that go beyond their immediate self-interests. Thus, more and more companies are moving way from transactional to transformational leadership styles.

Yuki (2006) believed that the study of leadership embodies a vast amount of research dominant in military institutions, businesses, and government organizations. While a significant body of literature has been produced concerning military leadership, Campbell and Dardis (2004) and Harris (2002) believed there is little or very limited research exploring the correlation of job satisfaction related to servant leadership attributes in military recruiting organizations. Some scholars agree that transformational leadership and servant leadership are considered the most prominent leadership styles in military and leading business organizations (Seltzer & Bass, 1990).

Transformational and servant leaders inspire followers to transcend their own needs for the good of the organization that will lead the organization to greater success. Transformational and servant leadership both encourage their followers to be more innovative and creative which creates an environment that breeds success within the organization. Followers are inspired by the leader’s personality, which focuses on the collective goals of the company and both types of leadership are focused on the relationship the leader has with their followers. However, Bass (1996) suggests that employees job performance is also positively related to their like or dislike of their supervisor than to their organization. The leadership style displayed in the organization will have a direct affect on the failure or success of the organization, because of the level of commitment the employee’s binds to the leader of the organization. The way the leader’s leadership style is perceived by the followers could influence the leader’s power and ability to lead the organization to success.

Much of the literature written on leadership style challenges encompasses the difficulties that lie within team collaboration and the empowerment of the individual. Recognizing and identifying the importance of individuality, while maintaining the team approach is a theme echoed throughout much of the written works. Similarly, comprehending the process by which personality traits merge and produce, the studied literature indicates the need for leadership to identify adequately and accurately. Such an example imbedded in Bono and Judge (2004) where they indicate that personality traits are three dimensional in nature. The identification process of personality traits in combination with leadership styles can become a challenge. Bono and Judge write:

“Personality traits were related to three dimensions of transformational leadership–idealized influence–inspirational motivation (charisma), intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration–and three dimensions of transactional leadership–contingent reward, management by exception–active and passive leadership. Extraversion was the strongest and most consistent correlate of transformational leadership. Although results provided some support for the dispositional basis of transformational leadership–especially with respect to the charisma dimension–generally, weak associations suggested the importance of future research to focus on both narrower personality traits and non-dispositional determinants of transformational and transactional leadership (Bono & Judge, 2004, p. XX).

Another challenge with leadership styles is explored by Brown and Keeping (2005) , where they concluded that ratings of leadership are “highly influenced by the interpersonal affect raters feel towards the target being rated” (p. 245). Varma, DeNisi, and Peters (1996) evaluated performance reviews and correlation to how well the person being evaluated likability by the person doing the evaluation. Job approval ratings for the president of the United States correlates to this “highly influenced by the interpersonal affect raters feel towards the target being rated” in business (Kaiser, Hogan, & Craig, 2008). Driskell and Salas (2005) researched the affective response to a leader when there was depressing content and demeanor within an employee’s performance review.


Leadership is probably the most studied facet of human behavior (Geoghegan & Dulewicz, 2008). Although leadership per se is not often mentioned (as opposed to managerial skills, which are almost universally accepted as important to running a successful organization), the numerous references to vision, communication, building relationships with diverse constituents, motivating members, ability to lead well in a wide range of circumstances reflect the characteristics of agile leadership (Caffey, 2007).

Fiedler’s (1996) research suggested that leadership styles such as transformational, transactional, and servant leadership styles are effective in all situations; but successful organizations have a combination of leadership styles and managers at each level. Leadership style has been shown to be a significant factor in the effectiveness of the organization, and different leadership styles are more effective than others in different situations. According to Smith, Montagno, and Kuzmenko (2004), both transformational and servant leadership styles function based on charismatic leadership while transactional leadership style is performance-oriented. The leader inspires and directs followers by means of a shared vision and values. To be successful, both the transformational leader and the servant leader need a considerable amount of charisma-the ability to inspire greatness in them and in those they manage or lead (Bass 2000). Likewise, while not all followers are motivated through rewards, transactional leadership provides a target for followers to perform well.

Transactional leadership style differs from transformational leadership for various reasons. For the former, the focus is on the exchanges that occur between leaders and their followers. The transactional leader concentrate on maintaining the status quo by satisfying the followers’ current material needs (Bass, 1990). Transactional leadership is based on the assumption that, by explaining what the leader wants and rewarding appropriate behaviors, the leader directs followers to achieve a desired level of performance. The transformational leader’s primary objective is to bring followers up to a position where they can accomplish tasks without immediate supervision (Seltzer & Bass, 1990; Shuster, 1994). Einstein (1994) suggested that a transformational leader uses three steps to bring about transformation in leader – follower relations. The steps are: (a) diagnosing the leadership situation, (b) transacting the relationship between leader and follower, and (c) transforming follower into an effective employee. These leaders listen to their followers and share their individual concerns as they help to build their confidence.

The best leadership is said to be both transformational and transactional. Transformational leadership augments the effectiveness of transactional leadership; it does not replace transactional leadership (Bass, Walsman, & Yammarino, 1990). The opportunities this combined style fails to address would be those who fall between both leadership styles. This is why it makes sense as an effective leader to understand the various leadership styles and be able to employ them as needed as one tends toward the transformational leadership style.   

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