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“Walking The Talk” – Transformational Leadership

Richard Benjamin, Kennesaw State University


Artful Leadership has been seen as closest to ‘Transformational Leadership.  Please reflect on the leadership quotes immediately below, then, on each of the rubrics below indicate where you see yourself in the journey toward shared, transformational leadership, and, in the appropriate square, write any examples that illustrate your rating.


Transformation is used here as an alternative to “reform” and to “transactional” leadership.  It is an effort to explicitly build on past and current strengths and to aim toward shared moral and ethical purposes and methods.  It is not intended to ignore or to not reform current weaknesses, but rather to insure the careful attention to strengths and personal growth in addressing weaknesses and in working toward a shared vision,  shared values, and significant shared purposes.


Transformational leadership is advanced as quite different from “transactional” leadership, focusing not on an exchange or barter, but on the development of people as the first priority within continuous improvement - toward change which goes beyond simple quantitative improvement, to qualitative changes on the order on magnitude of the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly.  It aims at ‘tipping point’ change, or a ‘Breakthrough’ in meeting organizational purposes.


By way of further definition, Transformational Leadership, advanced by George MacGregor Burns, is here depicted as being supported by other, related leadership approaches, especially:


-          Servant Leadership – Robert Greenleaf

-          Level 5 Leadership – Jim Collins

-          Invitational Leadership – William Purkey and Betty Siegel

-          Moral Leadership – Thomas Sergiovanni

-          Principle-Centered Leadership / 8th Habit  – Stephen Covey


These DRAFT Rubrics await use and feedback to improve the structure and criteria, and to generate suggested entries in each cell, entries which will describe in brief detail what a given criteria looks like at each stage of implementation.


So, reflect on you and your leadership, whether as a teacher or as an administrator, and feel free to send your thoughts and suggestions to me, so we can all help each other on our journeys –   


Dialogue Module – Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership by Lee Bolman & Terry Deal


-          “…(many) have told us  that they handled some problem the ‘only way’ it could be done.  Such statements betray a failure of both imagination and courage….Those who master the ability to reframe report a liberating sense of choice and power.  Managers are imprisoned only to the extent that their palette of ideas is impoverished.  This lack of imagination – Langer (1989) calls it ‘mindlessness’ – is a major cause of the shortfall between the reach and the grasp of so many organizations – the empty chasm between dreams and reality…” p. 17.


-          Art embraces emotion, subtlety, ambiguity.  An artist reframes the world so others can see new possibilities.  Modern organizations rely too much on engineering and too little on art in searching for attributes such as quality, commitment, and creativity.   Art is not a replacement for engineering, but an enhancement.  Artistic leaders…help us see beyond today’s reality to new forms that release untapped individual energies and improve collective performance.  The leader as artist relies on images as well as memos, poetry as well as policy, reflection as well as command, and reframing as well as refitting.” p. 18








Engaging Leadership – Richard Axelrod, in Terms of Engagement


Today, leaders are aware of two essential truths.  First, command and control behavior does not work.  Second they cannot bring about necessary change alone.  p 2


Embracing democracy really is the hard part of the process.  However, its difficulty should not deter you from applying this principle – it is critical to the success of the engagement paradigm.

p 162

Transformational Leadership -  Not available anymore

This paper argues that to be truly transformational leadership, it must be grounded in moral foundations. The four components of authentic transformational leadership (idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration) are constrasted with their counterfeits in the dissembling  pseudotransformational leadership on the basis of 1) the moral character of the leaders and their concerns for self and others; 2) the ethical values embedded in the leaders’ vision, articulation, and program, which followers can embrace or reject; and 3) the morality of the processes of social ethical choices and action in which the leaders and followers engage and collectively pursue.

The literature on transformational leadership is linked to the long-standing literature on virtue and moral character, as exemplified by Socratic and Confucian typologies.

Discussions of leadership are often hopelessly intertwined with issues of authority. And, if modern Western philosophy has had one central preoccupation, it has been with the emancipation of the individual from externally imposed forms of authority and control. Its core principle -- that all authority emanates from the consent of the governed -- remains a very revolutionary defense of individual liberty, self-determination and due process. Furthermore, the human rights tradition that has grown out of the defense of the dignity of the individual safeguards inalienable individual rights even in the face of majority social choices. Modern Western philosophy tacitly assumes that there is no morally valid leadership without the consent of the led.


The ethics of leadership rests upon three pillars: (1) the moral character of the leader, (2) the ethical values embedded in the leader’s vision, articulation, and program which followers either embrace or reject, and (3) the morality of the processes of social ethical choice and action that leaders and followers engage in and collectively pursue. Such ethical dimensions of leadership have been widely acknowledged (Wren, 1996; Kouzes & Posner,1993; Greenleaf, 1977). Transformational leaders set examples to be emulated by their followers.



Level 5 Leadership  - Jim Collins, in Good To Great


Level 5 leaders look out the window to attribute success to factors other than themselves.  When things go poorly, however, they look in the mirror and blame themselves, taking full responsibility.  p 39


Level 5 leaders embody a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will.  p 39







Transformational Leadership

George MacGregor Burns





Authority derived from shared moral values, not position






Focus is on growth, learning, by ALL










More below…….

Servant Leadership

Robert Greenleaf





Is servant first, leader second p. 13




Leader would be freely chosen by those served  because they are proven and trusted as a servant p. 10








Those served become healthier, wiser, more autonomous, more likely to become servants p. 13





Those least privileged benefit most  p. 14












Level 5 Leadership

Jim Collins





Looks in mirror to apportion responsibility






Looks out the window to apportion credit





Sets the standard of building a great, enduring (organization, not self)






Channels ambition into the (organization) not the self










8th Habit





Find your own voice






Help others find their voice















Moral Leadership

Thomas Sergiovanni





Emphasizes common purpose, values, and the moral basis of authority, not position.  p. 106






Builds voluntary followership, not subordination p.70




Introduces clarity, consensus, and commitment regarding the organizations purposes

 p. 129







Empowers people to do what makes sense as long as decisions embody the shared values p. 129








Constructivist Leadership

Lambert et al.





Facilitates (adults) in a community, working together to construct meaning and knowledge p32







Priority on relationships - in the balance of relationships and accountability p35















Invitational Leadership

Wm Purkey & Betty Siegel p. 23





Demonstrates Respect




Encourages Trust




Evidences Optimism





Shows Intentionality













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