Transformational Leadership: Advantages and Disadvantages

Transformational Leadership: Advantages and Disadvantages

Transformational leadership is both a theory and a style of leadership in which a leader employs more specific approaches or mechanisms to build and maintain relationships, increase motivation and morale, and improve the performance of the followers.

Some examples of these mechanisms include aligning the identity and interests of the organization with the identity and interests of the followers, determining shared goals and objectives, identifying needed change and creating the corresponding vision, and challenging followers to take ownership or giving them autonomy over their roles and responsibilities.

Furthermore, unlike transactional leadership which focuses on supervision, organization, and performance, transformational leadership is about inspirational motivation, empowerment of the followers, promoting positive change, and intellectual stimulation.

The Pros: The Strengths and Advantages of Transformational Leadership

1. Most Effective Style of Leadership Based on Established Research

Several studies have explored the strengths and advantages of transformational leadership and compared it to other styles and models of leadership. Researchers K. B. Lowe, K. G. Kroeck, and N. Sivasubramaniam conducted a meta-analysis that combined data from studies both in the private and public sectors.

The analysis revealed that the transformational approach ranked first in terms of predicted overall work unit effectiveness across the set of studies examined while transactional leadership ranked second. The contingent reward and managing-by-expectation styles of leadership ranked third and fourth respectively.

2. Promotes Creativity and Innovation Through Collaboration

It also fosters collaboration and makes it more effective than transactional leadership, authoritarian leadership, and micromanagement when it comes to generating ideas and innovative solutions. Transformational leaders collaborate with their followers to generate, explore, and synthesize insights and ideas.

A leadership setting under a transformational approach encourages and even incentivizes all individuals to take part in meeting or achieving shared goals and objectives and in coming up with creative ideas needed to advance a particular group or an entire organization and creative solutions to pressing problems.

3. Builds and Maintains Motivation and Satisfaction of Individuals

Findings from the study of M. Zineldin that involved 128 leaders working at Swedish companies indicated that the inspirational and intellectual stimulation aspects of the transformational approach significantly contributed to the enthusiasm, happiness, attentiveness, pride, and hopefulness of employees.

The aforementioned study concluded further that transformational leaders are the most effective in increasing organizational outcomes by boosting job satisfaction across the workforce. It also noted that transformational leadership plays a role in enhancing mental and psychological health inside and outside the workplace.

4. Fosters Organizational Change By Influencing Positive Behavior

Another advantage of transformational leadership is that it helps an organization go through change because it positively influences the behavior of employees. An empirical analysis by S. Faupel and S. Süb showed that its engagement and valence components serve as mediators for facilitating organizational change.

Findings from the aforementioned analysis specifically revealed that transformational leaders inherently increase the engagement of employees and their perception of the attractive change consequences through these two components. These components induce a particular behavior that favors change within an organization.

The Cons: Weaknesses and Disadvantages of Transformational Leadership

1. Restricted Applicability in Different Specific Circumstances

Transformational leadership is not a one-size-fits-all leadership style. One of its drawbacks is its inapplicability in certain situations. It is useless in settings involving routines or mechanized tasks. It is also counterproductive in new and chaotic groups or organizations that lack established rules or experienced members.

Another example is emergencies that require quick decisions. A transformational leader might fail to make fast and appropriate courses of action due to inexperience in prompt decision-making and problem-solving or overdependence on collaboration. Some situations require a transactional or combination approach.

2. Dependence on the Cultural Context of the Leadership Situation

Cultural factors can also limit its advantages. V. Gupta and R. Krishnan concluded that transactional leaders are more likely to exhibit transformational behaviors if their followers are more unassuming in approaching them. Cultural context determines the applicability and effectiveness of this leadership style.

Researchers G. M. Spreitzer, K. H., Perttula, and K. R. Xin also examined how cultural values affect the perceived effectiveness of transformational leadership. Findings showed that those with more traditional cultural values tend to recognize a weaker link between transformational leadership and leadership effectiveness.

3. Can Place a Substantial Level of Pressure On the Followers

One of the advantages of both transactional leadership and an authoritarian style of leadership is that they place pressure and accountability on the leader. However, under a transformational leadership approach, the leader distributes accountability among the followers through autonomy or ownership over their tasks.

There is also an emphasis on collaboration or participation in a transformational setting. Some individuals might find additional collaborative and leadership roles and responsibilities too taxing. Their high level of involvement in achieving collective goals and objectives might leave them feeling overworked or even exploited.

4. Can Have A Negative Effect on Creativity and Innovation

Another disadvantage of transformational leadership is that it can negatively affect the creative and innovative capabilities of individuals in some situations. S. A. Eisenbeib and S. Boerner found that it can increase the creativity of the followers but can also increase their dependency, thus reducing their individual creativity.

V. Li, R. Mitchell, and B. Boyle concluded that group-based transformational leadership leads to team innovation while an individual-focused transformational leadership has a negative impact on individual innovation. These studies suggest that this leadership style negatively affects capabilities at the individual level.


  • Eisenbeib, S. A. & Boerner, S. 2013. “A Double-Edged Sword: Transformational Leadership and Individual Creativity.” British Journal of Management. 24(1): 54-68. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2011.00786.x
  • Faupel, S. & Süb, S. 2018. “The Effect of Transformational Leadership on Employees During Organizational Change – An Empirical Analysis.” Journal of Change Management. DOI: 10.1080/14697017.2018.1447006
  • Gupta, V. & Krishnan, V. R. 2004. “Impact of Socialization on Transformational Leadership: Role of Leader-Member Exchange.” South Asian Journal of Management. 11(3): 7-20
  • Lowe, K. B., Kroeck, K. G., & Sivasubramaniam, N. 1996. “Effectiveness Correlates of Transformational and Transactional Leadership: A Meta-Analytic Review of the MLQ Literature.” The Leadership Quarterly. 7(3): 385-425. DOI: 10.1016/S1048-9843(96)90027-2
  • Li, V., Mitchell, R. & Boyle, B. 2015. “The Divergent Effects of Transformational Leadership on Individual and Team Innovation.” Group & Organization Management. 41(1): 66-97. DOI: 10.1177/1059601115573792
  • Spreitzer, G. M., Perttula, K. H., & Xin, K. R. 2005. “Traditionality Matters: An Examination of the Effectiveness of Transformational Leadership in the United States and Taiwan. Journal of Organizational Behavior. 26(3): 205-227. DOI: 10.1002/job.315
  • Zineldin, M. 2017. “Transformational Leadership Behavior, Emotions, and Outcomes: Health Psychological Perspective in the Workplace.” Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health. 32(1): 14-25. DOI: 10.1080/15555240.2016.1273782