Great leaders are not always transformational leaders (think of awful dictators and power mongers). And truly great leaders are real leaders. Unfortunately, real leaders are hard to come by. Being a transformational leader means be a real leader – not a pseudo-leader.
According to Peter Northouse, the term “transformational leadership” was coined by J.V. Downton (no he does not live at Downton Abbey!) in about 1973. It was popularized in 1978 by James MacGregor Burns in his book Leadership (revised in 2010)
Burns said there was a difference between “transactional leadership” (the exchanges between leaders and followers) and transformational leadership.
Transformational leadership is …the process whereby a person engages with others and creates a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the follower.” – Peter Northouse, Leadership, p. 186
Both kinds of leadership are real and necessary. But transformational leadership is always deeper, lasting and creates are greater sense of team, mutual motivation and joy in the arena of work.
But some leaders could never qualify as “transformational” because of major ethical issues, power mongering, and how they treat employees (sadly, Henry Ford became such a leader when wealth and power got the best of him).
What are the marks of Pseudo-transformational leadership?
Here are signs that you or others are becoming pseudo-transformational in your leadership.
1) You are in it for self-advancement. This is easy to assess. When a leader always cares more about growing their own platform instead of helping others build theirs, it is a telltale sign.
2) Decision-making is always pragmatic. What works for the leader transcends what is best for the team or the organization.
3) Ethical standards are compromised. This may be overt or subtle, or even done out of ignorance or the speed in making a decision. Nonetheless, it is a sign that things are bad. Employees or team members are treated with condescension or ignored, shortcuts are taken and due diligence is ignored, and compliance issues in HR or in legal matters are given lip service.
4) Strategy takes priority over relationship. In other words, regardless of the damage a decision or path may do to the team, as long as we “win” or “realize the vision” or can say “mission accomplished” the collateral relational damage is chalked up simply as the cost of doing business.
5) Everything has a price tag. Pseudo-transformational leaders believe they can “buy” everything – trust, votes, loyalty, performance, followers, relationships, customers, members, silence and compliance with their demands. In some cases money, severance packages (hush money, in some cases), promotions, perks and other “incentives” are used to move people and strategy in the direction the leader desires – even out of the organization.
So we must look at our own leadership habits, choices, motives and ethics.
Who are we in this role for?
What are we leaving behind?
What would others say about my leadership?