The Disadvantages of Transformational Leadership

SolStock/E+/GettyImages

It would be a great world if everyone could work together cohesively, pushing a business to its desired goal. This is the foundation of a management style called transformational leadership, which pulls everyone in on major decisions, ensuring the entire team is personally invested in the success of the company. Sounds great, right? But if you’re thinking about using this approach in your business, it’s important to know the weaknesses of transformational leadership as well as its strengths.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Transformational leadership can result in the wrong decisions if leaders are confused or employees burn out of the process.

Leaders Are Confused

Although employees have stated a preference for a transformational leadership style, one study found that often employers only thought they were providing it. From the employee’s standpoint, however, the leadership style was actually transactional, which is the opposite. Transactional leadership styles try to exchange rewards for performance, rather than treating employees as a true part of the decision-making process. Transformational leaders must make sure they actually focus on team-building and collaboration, rather than continuing to treat employees as subordinates.

Depends on the Employees

Since team dynamics can differ dramatically from one company to the next, one approach does not work for all businesses. Transformational leadership works best with employees who prefer to be part of the process and who also work well together. If a leader finds that gathering the entire team in one place to discuss making big changes leads to a lack of participation or constant conflict, this style likely isn’t the right fit.

When Passion Overtakes Reality

Some of the most inspirational leaders have won over large groups of people with seemingly “transformational” ideas. Followers get caught up in this passion, believing the leader has the ability to make a big difference in their lives. But the message of a transformational leader isn’t always a solid one. It’s important that a leader not only bring team members into the fold on company activities but listen to their thoughts as well.

Avoiding Playing Favorites

If you were leading a team of people toward the same goal, could you treat each member equally? Preferential treatment is difficult to avoid, especially when you’re trying to get ideas from team members. There will naturally be some who contribute more, and some of those will offer greater value in those contributions, so you’ll find yourself giving them more attention than you would expect. For transformational leadership to empower the entire team, leaders must make a concerted effort to include everyone, which sometimes means nurturing less experienced team members.

Although there are disadvantages of transformational leadership, it can work with the right commitment. Leaders should monitor the results of this style and make sure it’s getting the desired results. Over time, you will be able to find a method of leading that works best for your own team, even if it means a combination of approaches.

References

About the Author

Stephanie Faris is a novelist and business writer whose work has appeared on numerous small business blogs, including Zappos, GoDaddy, 99Designs, and the Intuit Small Business Blog. She worked for the State of Tennessee for 19 years, the latter six of which were spent as a supervisor. She has written about business for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2011.