Exploring transformational and servant leadership

The question of defining successful leadership is a pressing issue because of its importance in the future. There are many research articles and books that seek to understand the characteristics of the successful leader. The theories of leadership are diverse.  However, the main lesson from these theories is that the leader is a talent rather than a gift. It is believed that leadership is grasped by learning and is elaborated by training. In the following paragraphs I will try to explain two theories of leadership and discuss their relevance to my knowledge of the leadership topic and whether it is applied or should be applied in my workplace.



The first leadership theory that will be explained is the transformational leadership. It is believed by Burns (1978, cited in Anon., 2007:4) that the transformational leadership is a continuous practice where the leader represents the values of their followers. In addition, the transformational leaders concentrate on the long term purposes that achieve the great ambitions of their followers. The leaders according to the transformational leadership theory would deploy charisma in effective leading of the followers.  The leader should understand the requirements of the people involved in the process and guide them to achieve their maximum aims. Furthermore, it is argued that the transformational leader has not only to change the followers but also lead the change in the organization which results in attaining the objectives of the organization. One of the main contributions of the transformational leadership theory is the addition of the righteous aspect to the theory of leadership.

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The definition of transformational leadership is developed by B. Bass who defines it according to the impact of the leader on his or her subordinates. It is clear to him that the leader should influence the followers to understand that the significance of their duties, to motivate them to put the objectives of the organization as their first priority, and to energize them to achieve their ultimate obligations. However, B. Bass suggests that the transformational leader is not ethical.

The transformational leadership is thought to be based on four major aspects. The first one is charisma which is the extent of performance of the leader that is appreciated by followers. It is the establishing of confidence between the leader and the subordinates based on integrity. Nevertheless, the leader is setting up a group of principles that define his or her actions. The second aspect is to inspire subordinates to motivate them to achieve the purposes of the organization. The leader should develop a clear and attractive vision and define a meaning to the tasks required. A good ability to deliver the leader vision is considered to be essential. Thirdly, it is the role of the leader to encourage and inspire the followers to be creative. The leader should also communicate the complete description of the goals and plans to his or her followers. The fourth aspect in the transformational leadership is the consideration on individual basis where every subordinate is given personal attention from the leader to identify his or her own demands and interests so that it motivates the followers to do their best. It also includes the appreciation of every follower efforts.


The second leadership theory is the servant leadership. It is a theory that seeks according to Smith (2005) to redefine the leadership and to question the existing presumptions about how the leader and the followers are related. It is considered to be a version of leadership where followers’ concerns and interests are the main objective of the leader. It is comprised of four main principles. The goal of providing assistance to the subordinates is believed to be the first principle of the leader. The achievement of the objectives of the organization is thought to be determined from inspiring the followers.  Moreover, the leader should motivate the followers to be who they really are in their job and their life outside work which would result in attaining the purposes of the organization on the long term and improve the performance of the organization. Furthermore, the development of society’s awareness amid the followers is believed to be crucial in achieving the goals of the organization. The fourth principle is about increasing the role of followers in defining the course of actions of their organization which influence the subordinates to be more productive and establishing a prosperous organization. Cultural context is thought to have effect on applying the servant leadership. It is believed that the servant leadership is more applicable in societies with strong humane orientation such as Egypt and low power distance such as Denmark (Van dierendonck, 2011)



Both theories could explain the good leadership and how it should be in the workplace. Although they differ in many aspects, they enlighten the definition of successful leadership that I would approve in the past and the one that I would recommend in the future. The transformational leadership theory is related to the idea about good leadership. However, the servant leadership might be a great discovery to many people including me. The transformational leadership theory is useful in explaining that the leader should promote creativity and innovation in his or her subordinates which is essential in determination of success of the modern organization. On the other hand, the servant leadership might identify the good leadership for the future in very complex and uncertain business environment.

The transformational leadership is defining the leader as an individual who have transforms the focus of his or her followers from seeking their own goals to seek the objectives of the organization, inspires the followers to achieve them, and improves the performance of his or her subordinates by guiding them and understanding of their requirements. This explains some advantages of this theory that should be applied in my company. However, using this for the success of the organization only is a shortcoming in this theory (Stone et al., 2004). It is clear that giving enough consideration to the aspirations of the employees is an advantage in this theory. The charisma issue is considered to be important in my company although it is found to be insufficient in modern leadership practice. Furthermore, the charisma is thought to be a gift rather than a skill that could be learned (Barbuto, Jr., 1997). The idea that the leader will share his or her understanding of the challenges with the subordinates is suitable for leadership in the turbulent and rapidly changing business world in the future. Additionally, the good effect of this theory on the creativity is weakened by the extreme reliance on the leader (Eisenbeiß & Boerner, 2013). Arguably, the strong dependence on the leader’s personal adjectives could be seen as a problem in the transformational leadership theory.

The servant leadership theory is considered by Smith (2005) to be a suitable solution to the problem of bad use of power and reduces the personal effects on the actions of the leaders by focusing on helping others achieve their goals and satisfaction. The increased role in the decision making process is, as many suggests; eliminate to great extent the misuse of authority and bad judgments. I would like to agree with the view that in the modern time and in the future the servant leadership could provide more stable and secure work environment in a bitter and complicated global competition and risks. The change in business conditions is thought to be coped with by adopting the servant leadership that emphasizes giving more power to the followers and more flexible workplace hierarchy.

The servant leadership is thought by Ronald Berryman (No Date) to provide solutions to many problems that face the organizations in the future. The servant leadership is advantageous to the leaders in many ways. First of all, it relieves the work stress through cooperation with the subordinates in fulfilling the objectives of the organization. Secondly, the job satisfaction that enhances productivity is another benefit of the servant leadership. Finally, the servant leader is more engaged with others in the organization. Furthermore, the servant leadership is beneficial to the organizations also.  For example, they are good in making the leader’s plans applicable particularly in the public sector. Additionally, they help the leader get the big picture of his or her organization. The success of the organization is considered to be the result of the individuals’ efforts and not the leaders themselves. The servant leader is capable of motivating his or her employees which enable organizations to cope with the challenges they confront. Nevertheless, this theory only is found to be not capable of defining the effective leadership in the present time (Jaworski, 2012).

The application of the servant leadership theory is found by Ronald Berryman (No Date) to be profitable. By putting this theory into action you help create positive work environment where every member is cooperating with the leader and the other members to achieve the objectives of the organization.  It is true that this model of leadership is helpful and useful in developing the organization into a better one. The servant leadership is suggested to be a plan for accomplishment of the strategic goals. However, it requires that the leader be ready to give up valuable self-interests such as time.


In conclusion, it is obvious that leadership is crucial yet ambiguous issue that requires more study and research. There many theories that defines leadership and suggest the best way to practice leadership. The transformational leadership theory is found to be applicable in different businesses. However, the transformational leadership theory concentrates on achieving business goals. Nevertheless, the transformational leadership is good in explaining how I thought effective leadership should be. The main contribution of this theory is that it affirms the ethical element of the leader. On the other hand, the servant leadership concentrates on helping others achieve their own goals which would result in attaining the aims of the organization. As a result, I would agree that the servant leadership is an effective model of the leadership in the future. The important aspect of the servant leadership is that it allow for more participation in taking decisions in the organizations. I might add that the cultural differences should be taken into consideration when applying the servant leadership theory.

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Research Prepared by :  THE PEAK Business Research Center



Anon., (2007) ‘The transformational leadership report’, Available at: http://www.transformationalleadership.net/products/TransformationalLeadershipReport.pdf (Accessed: 13/2/2014)


Dirk van Dierendonck, (2011) ‘Servant Leadership: A Review and Synthesis’, Journal of Management, 37(4), 1228 – 1261 Available at: http://www.ou.edu/cls/online/LSAL4700developing/pdf/unit3_vandierendonck.pdf (Accessed 27/2/2014)

Eisenbeiß, Silke Astrid, & Boerner, Sabine, (2013) ‘A Double-edged Sword: Transformational Leadership and Individual Creativity’, British Journal of Management, Vol. 24 Issue 1, p54-68 (from University of Roehampton online library)

Jaworski, J., (2012) ‘Renewing Leaders: Beyond Servant Leadership’, Reflections, Vol. 12 Issue 1, p44-51 (from University of Roehampton online library)

John E. Barbuto, Jr., (1997) ‘Taking the Charisma out of Transformational Leadership’, Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, Available at: https://thepeakbcdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/aa7e8-mol2050120barbuto20on20charismatic.pdf (Accessed: 24/2/2014)


Ronald Berryman, A., (No Date) ‘Servant Leadership: good for you and good for your organization’

Available at: http://www.berrymanandcompany.com/Images/ServantLeadership.pdf (Accessed: 14/2/2014)


Smith, C., (2005), ‘Servant leadership’, Available at: http://www.carolsmith.us/downloads/640greenleaf.pdf (Accessed: 13/2/2014)


Stone, A. Gregory, Russell, Robert F., & Patterson, Kathleen, (2004) ‘Transformational versus servant leadership: A difference in leader focus’, Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 25(4), pp.349 – 361 Available at:

http://colowebsite.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/sl_proceedings/2003/stone_transformation_versus.pdf (Accessed: 24/2/2014)




2 thoughts on “Exploring transformational and servant leadership

  1. Pingback: Effective Mood Manager [Legal] Leaders, Emotional Intelligence, and Worker Job Satisfaction | Psycholawlogy

  2. Pingback: Characteristics Of Great Leaders — Leadershipskills

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