Barking up the wrong tree. On the fallacies of the transformational leadership theory

Jon Aarum Andersen
  • Leadership & Organization Development Journal, August 2015, Emerald
  • DOI: 10.1108/lodj-12-2013-0168

What is it about?

The purpose of this conceptual paper is to illustrate that the magnitude of interest in and of enthusiasm for transformational leadership is out of proportion with its weaknesses. Design/methodology/approach – Theoretical paper. Findings - The theory has some grave problems: (1) there are conceptual limitations; (2) managerial leadership is conflated with political leadership, (3) the theory is presented as a universal as well as a contingency theory, (4) the claim that transformational leaders are more effective is not empirically supported; (5), and the use of the term ‘followers’ rather than ‘subordinates’ creates confusion in the study of formal organizations. Finally, and perhaps most fundamentally, does transformational leadership theory qualify as a managerial leadership theory?

Why is it important?

Research implications –Transformational leadership is a political leadership theory and thus less relevant for managerial leadership. Originality/value – This article addresses the theoretical limitations of the transformational leadership theory as well as the lack of empirical support regarding the effectiveness of transformational leaders. Key words Transformational leadership, transactional leadership, political leadership, managerial leadership, effectiveness.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Jon Aarum Andersen