Transformational Leadership: Can It Be Developed?

Transformational The prominence of ‘new leadership’ in the form of transformational and authentic leadership has been indentified before. Exponents of this model of leadership advocate its potential significance to organizational performance (Parry, 2001).

The work of Parry and Sinha (2005) suggests that transformational leadership can be developed through training interventions and Parry has pioneered such interventions through classroom settings. Others, most notably Conger (1996), have taken an alternative perspective and argue that it is very unclear how, for example, individuals develop charisma and vision, and certainly how to formally develop charismatic leadership? These issues remain understandably elusive. Conger questions whether,

training can develop such skills as vision as it is a by-product of experience and an openness to ideas and trends … can we teach it? Not likely.

(1996: 56)

If vision or charisma cannot be taught, how do some leaders become charismatic and transformational? If it is not through training then is it, perhaps, simply as Weber (1947) argued, a ‘gift of divine grace’?

The argument of a case of leadership (including transformational, authentic and charismatic modes) being formed through a constructed process of both universal aspects (traits/behavioral norms and implicit/romantic theories) and local contextualized approaches. Learning about both these elements appears to be anchored in naturalistic experience.

The contextualized by-product (Conger, 1996: 56) of organizational experience reflects an acquisition of meanings and practices (Lave & Wenger, 1991) shaped among a particular community. The attribution of qualities of leadership, such as charisma, to a manager may reflect a shared understanding of leadership that could be symbolically represented through (and perhaps embodied in) the manager.

The leader’s behavior may be attributed as charismatic, as a consequence of being in resonance with the meanings and practices that followers hold, and such attribution may reinforce a sense of the manager believing they can lead: in essence, there has been no training of the manager … rather the manager has ‘become’ charismatic in a particular content.

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