Ideally, a transformational leader is an altruistic and charismatic individual who can inspire and transform followers by emphasizing the individuals’ intrinsic motivation and personal development, while accomplishing an organizational goal. Throughout the empowerment process, a leader would engage with followers and create a connection that raises the level of morality in both the leader and the follower (Northouse, 2016). This type of leader should possess charismatic characteristics and behaviors. In addition to these attributes, the leader would apply the four transformational leadership factors: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. However, some leaders may have these transformational qualities, but lack a long-term commitment to altruistic values. Terry L. Price (2003) argues that transformational leaders are inauthentic or pseudo-transformational, when they “behave in ways that are out of line with these values” (p.71). Not only would inauthentic leaders act incongruently with the organizational values, but they also would weaken the group’s ethics and morality, which in turn, would lower followers’ commitment in the organizational goal, diminish their trust, and decrease their job satisfaction. As a result, the inauthentic leaders should adopt Bill George’s Authentic Leadership Approach (Northouse, 2016) to develop the essential qualities of authentic leaders that have long lasting effects on the followers and increase leadership effectiveness. This blog will provide an example of an inauthentic leader who possesses transformational leadership qualities, and describe how his incongruent behaviors negatively affected the group’s performance and morality. Finally, the practical authentic leadership approach will be introduced to correct the leader’s mistake.
Executive Chef Matthew (pseudonym) is a talented chief executive chef who is hired to oversee a five-year expansion plan of multiple kitchen facilities in a large country club. In addition to this task, he also has to manage about fifty culinary professionals to improving the quality of food and services at the club, and optimize the operation. Moreover, he displays charismatic characteristics (i.e., having a strong desire to influence others, being dominant, being self-confident, and having a strong sense of moral values), and charismatic leader behaviors (i.e., articulating goals, arousing motives, communicating high expectations and expressing confidence) (Northouse, 2016).
During his first staff meeting, Matthew shared the organization’s grand vision to expand the facilities, and that he was appointed to guide the kitchen employees through this process. In addition, as the new executive chef, his new goal was transforming the kitchen’s outdated operational and management systems (i.e., 25 years old facility) to more efficient and modernized systems, which would make the cooks’ lives easier. Most importantly, he expressed that he resented chefs who would scream at their employees because everything could be resolved constructively. As a result, he encouraged all chefs to reason with their employees. His speech demonstrated that the leader had a strong desire to transform the group with a higher level of moral value. In addition, the leader believed that he possessed the abilities to guide the employees through these changes, which showed the dominant and confident characteristics. After painting a visionary picture, Matthew began articulating each goal, such as laying out the stages of expansion plans, system modernization, and setting higher expectations for performance standards. In the end, he expressed his confidence in accomplishing the goals with the employees’ assistance. The clarified goals and expectations and the leader’s confidence in the followers had aroused and motivated each employee to work toward the organizational goals. Overall, Matthew’s characteristics and behaviors were congruent with charismatic or transformational leadership.
Next, Matthew started to apply idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration during the transformation process. First, idealized influence is when a leader behaves as a role model for the employees. For example, Matthew spent most of his time cooking next to the employees, which allowed him to standardize food and service quality, help people who couldn’t meet their deadlines, and compliment good behaviors with positive feedback. The cooks would observe and copy the leader’s actions because they respected the leader’s involvement, identified with his behaviors, and believed that a leader with high ethical standards can be counted on. In addition, when Matthew helped employees who couldn’t meet their deadlines, it demonstrated that the team should work collectively and beyond individuals’ self-interests. In a way, the leader was expressing higher expectations, and motivating the employees’ commitment to the group vision by using an emotional appeal. This resembled the second factor of transformational leadership, inspirational motivation. As a result, the leader successfully provided the followers with a sense of mission (i.e., idealized influence), and enhanced the team spirit (i.e., inspirational motivation).
In the following weeks, Matthew communicated with each employee about their needs and goals individually, and designed personal challenges and career goals for each follower. This behavior exhibited individualized consideration, which is when the leader listens to an individual’s needs and helps followers to become fully actualized (Northouse, 2016). For the entire culinary team, he promised to build a certified apprenticeship program that would educate, train and mentor employees who desired to become a better chef. This goal was to create intellectual stimulation, or supporting followers by using innovative approaches. Consequently, every employee was enthusiastic to be a part of this team, motivated to work towards their own goals, and focused on improving efficiency and food quality collectively. The organization was thrilled with the transformational changes. Unfortunately, the genuine characteristics started slipping away as soon as Matthew had earned everyone’s trust.
Matthew started to spend more time with the club’s upper management and wealthy club members, missed weekly meetings, and ignored urgent issues. In addition, he gave the sales department full authority to add and cancel banquet events at the very last minute without providing notice to the kitchen staff. The increasing number of banquets events forced every kitchen and wait staff to work overtime for months. The banquet department was running at its maximum capacity, which interfered with other restaurants’ operations. Furthermore, the apprenticeship and mentorship programs were never materialized. When supervisors or employees complained to the Matthew, he argued that everything was better than before, and refused to see the root of the problems. Many employees felt betrayed, and turnover rate began to increase. As a result, the employees’ performance, and food and service qualities started to decline. The adversity went unnoticed by the general managers because Matthew was well-liked among the club’s upper management, and could persuade them these changes were a part of the process.
Transformational leadership is a reciprocal process that would elevate a leader’s value and morality to a higher level as he or she inspires the followers to achieve self-actualization, group goals, and higher moral standards. Clearly, Matthew only enforced the new standards and expectations on the followers, while he neglected to apply the same rules to himself. Without conforming to the group rules, the leader was behaving immorally. The incongruent behaviors were motivated by his self-interests (i.e., building relationship with his superiors), which ultimately altered his principles, and warped his leadership to an inauthentic style. Thus, the ethical failure was volitional (Carey, 1992; Hampton, 1989; Cited in Price, 2003). In other words, the leader’s failure happened because he was only outwardly concerned with the group goals and values, but inwardly focused on his own self-interests, and behaved against the group to satisfy self-consumed moral values. According to Price (2003), a leader who has some commitment to altruistic values (group values), but acts against them to satisfy personal goals, is called an incontinent pseudo-transformational leader. This type of leader is inconsistent and unreliable. In addition, leaders are the key to organizational morality. When they act inconsistently and incongruently, the followers would lose faith in the leaders and questions the fairness of the reward system, which in turn, would reduce employee motivation and the effectiveness of leaders’ influences. As a result, the leaders should sacrifice self-interests and incongruent behaviors, and apply ethical standards to themselves and the followers (Price, 2003).
Another approach can be adopted by incontinent pseudo-transformational leaders to prevent adversity, which is called authentic leadership. Authentic leaders exhibit genuine leadership, can self-regulate, reinforce reciprocal process that influence and inspire the leaders and followers, and possess skills and abilities that can be developed over a lifetime. Most importantly, authentic leadership is rooted in the leaders’ positive psychological qualities and strong ethics (Walumbwa et al., 2008; Cited in Northouse, 2016). The practical authentic leadership approach developed by Bill George (Northouse, 2016) focuses on the development of essential qualities of becoming authentic leaders, which include five characteristics: understanding their purpose, having strong values, establishing trusting relationships with others, demonstrating self-discipline and act on their values, and being passionate about the mission.
In Matthew’s situation, the leader was capable of establishing trusting relationships with others. Therefore, he should focus on developing the following characteristics. First, the leader should restate his purpose in the group and organization. As an executive chef, he should spend more time in the kitchens, instead of networking with the executives. Second, Matthew should have a stronger sense of group values by forcing himself to act on the collective principles and obey the same rules as everyone else. Finally, the leader should keep his passion towards the ultimate goals. If incontinent pseudo-transformational leaders could develop these qualities and act on them throughout the transformational process, or a lifetime, they would eventually become authentic leaders.
The analysis of Matthew’s leadership situation reveals that even though some leaders may possess charismatic leader characteristics and behaviors, and can successfully motivate the followers with the four transformational leadership factors, their influences and leadership effectiveness can be poor. Without commitment or adhering to the group values, a transformational leader can become an inauthentic person. The inconsistency and unethical behaviors would lower the followers’ productivity, and lose faith in the leader and the reward system. Therefore, the pseudo-transformational leaders should develop essential qualities that would strengthen their authenticity and adopt authentic transformational leadership.
Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Price, T. L. (2003). The ethics of authentic transformational leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 14(1), 67-81. doi:10.1016/S1048-9843(02)00187-X