Transformational leadership is characterized by inspiring followers to develop their specific professional interests for the benefit of the organization (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2008). Leaders who embody the characteristics of transformational leadership can be charismatic, communicate high performance expectations, and want followers to consider how their work efforts affect others (Schermerhorn et al., 2008). In contrast, situational leadership focuses on getting followers to complete task-oriented or relationship-oriented behaviors depending on the followers’ desires and abilities. Situational leadership includes the following styles: telling, selling, participating, and delegating (Schermerhorn et al., 2008). The telling and selling styles are best suited to followers who are on the lower end of the readiness scale, while the participating and delegating styles are better suited for followers who are ready and willing to take on responsibility (Schermerhorn et al, 2008).
Within most organizational cultures, there resides a political element. Office politics can be defined as the division that occurs between the “in group” and the “out group.” Those in the “in group” exert power and influence, while those in the “out group” may be excluded from making decisions, important information, assignments that develop skills, and upward mobility. Office politics can also be defined as the process by which individuals attempt to exert influence over those in positions in power for their own benefit (Marques, 2009). What these definitions are really saying is that people have a desire to fit in, and be recognized and rewarded for their talents. Existence in an organization is as much a social game as it is an arena where individuals must prove their merit. In order to be seen as valuable in an organization, influencing others to see oneself in a positive, capable light is crucial for survival. For this reason, transformational leadership is best suited for highly political organizations. The use of charisma, information, and reward power (Goncalves, 2013) that are inherent in transformational leadership can help to stabilize the highly competitive nature of political organizations.
Literature Review and Analysis
The ability to tell engaging stories to followers about the organization’s mission and let followers know how they fit into that purpose has been touted by some as effective leadership (Goncalves, 2013). The use of charismatic and information power is what defines a leader who is competent at inspiring and motivating followers. Charismatic leaders use the strength of their characters or personalities to influence followers (Goncalves, 2013). Leaders who use information power have extensive knowledge or an intellectual asset that persuades followers to look upon them favorably (Goncalves, 2013).
Since politics is about the ability to inspire others to perceive one as capable of leading a cause, a mission, or a thematic purpose, highly political organizations deem the necessity of leaders who can persuasively communicate in a manner that appeals to followers’ inner values and beliefs. Leaders must be appealing and be able to convince followers that the organization’s mission is in the best interests of the individual and the group. Essentially, this is what defines transformational leadership – the ability to convince and inspire followers to work towards the best interests of the group, while simultaneously enriching individual skills.
In order for transformational leadership to be effective in highly political organizations, followers must be ready to assume responsibility and independent initiative. Situational leadership does allow for exchanges where followers participate in the decision-making process and need little guidance when carrying out tasks. Since situational leadership does allow room for these exchanges that would seemingly support the objectives of transformational leadership, one has to wonder what makes transformational leadership more effective.
The fact that followers are participating in office politics to benefit their own interests indicates that they are ready to accept higher levels of authority, take charge, and have a strong desire to participate in the organization’s decisions. Yet, these followers are working to further their own individual interests and not necessarily the best interests of the organizations and its customers. This is where transformational leadership becomes paramount to steering followers in the direction of working towards the best interests of the group.
Transformational leadership can prevent sabotage, discord, and the pursuit of individual interests to the detriment of the organization. Leaders who embody the transformational style are able to attend to both the needs of the individual employee and the greater needs of the organization. By telling a compelling story, transformational leaders are able to convince followers that carrying out their job responsibilities and actions that work towards the greater good of the group can be win-win situations. The employee can work in an environment that promotes intellectual stimulation, skill development, and increasing responsibility.
The organization can become stronger when individual followers collaborate and extend their unique skills to the group. Although individual followers are contributing to the group’s mission in different ways, a transformational leader is able to communicate to them how their different contributions fit together. Employees feel as though they are making a difference and realize that they cannot compete against each other if the organization wants to accomplish its mission. Under a transformational leadership style, the mission and purpose of the organization supersedes individual pursuits. The negative aspects of office politics subside as individuals learn that everyone has an important role in the organization’s success.
Goncalves, M. (2013). Leadership styles: The power to influence others. International Journal
of Business and Social Science, 4(4). Retrieved from Trident University International library.
Marques, J. (2009). Organizational politics: Problem or opportunity? Human Resource
Management International Digest, 17(6), 38-41. Retrieved from Trident University International library.
Schermerhorn, J., Hunt, J, & Osborn, R. (2008). Organizational Behavior. New York: John
Wiley & Sons.