Transformational and Distributed leadership – Key to Success Of Modern Day Organizations

Leadership – Definition

In words of Harry Truman, “What makes leadership is the ability to get people do what they don’t want to do and like it.” In simple terms any person capable of driving a set a people to achieve the desired goals required for the success of an organization or a country can be termed as an able leader. No organization can be successful without a quality leader and that makes the concept of leadership most important and instrumental in the success of any organization.

Old concept of leadership

For centuries, it has been a common belief that leadership is a trait possessed by only few and these traits concept have contributed to “Great Man” theory of leadership. Under this theory leadership is born and not developed. The Great Man theory of leadership also carries the implicit assumption of hierarchical relationship with the leader at the pinnacle.

Changing mind-set

In last twenty five years there is a radical shift from this old age concept of “Great Man” theory of leadership. The changing nature of workplace and the dramatic rise of organizational complexities with greater dependency on technology have made companies to look for a different approach towards leadership. Many companies, recognizing the fact that their progress can be handicapped by their current leadership system have started to shift to a more distributed kind of leadership. Due to complex nature of modern business environment there is a need for shifting the focus from a single leader to an intricate and complex web of leaders who possesses a wide range of skill-set and experiences required for proper growth and functioning of an organization.

Focus on Relationship

Gone are the days where leadership was only about exercising your authority over your sub-ordinates. The modern day leaders have started spending more time with the people of the organization in order to give a personal touch to the relationship. The “relationship” factor is must for success of any organization. Once people feel connected with top management they start working in a more sincere and effective manner.

Influence- The key factor

It has become quite evident in the present scenario that the key ingredient of a successful leader is not the authority he commands but the way in which he influences the people to work for a common purpose. In current scenario, hierarchy is out and influencing skills are in. Modern day leadership doesn’t force people to do something rather they invite people in their journey. In order to empowering influence on people, a new set of qualities apart from the traditional leadership skills is required. Modern day leaders must know how to create a corroborative culture. These leaders must also lead by pathos through the creation of shared understanding, engaging and inspiring their people, and paying attention to their personal and professional growth.

Transformational Leadership – The way forward

In late seventies and early eighties, various scholars after visualizing the changing world made a further distinction between two forms of leadership: Transactional and Transformational. The transactional leadership is nothing but an exchange relationship between two parties to accomplish a common set of goals through a set of requirements, conditions and rewards (or punishment). Transformational leadership on the other hand is defined as a style of leadership where the leader is charged with identifying the needed change, creating a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executing the change in tandem with committed members of the group. Transformational leaders are described to hold positive expectations for followers, believing that they can do their best. As a result, they inspire, empower, and stimulate followers to exceed normal levels of performance. Transformational leaders also focus on and care about followers and their personal needs and development. Transformational leaders fit well in leading and working with complex work groups and organizations, where beyond seeking an inspirational leader to help guide them through an uncertain environment, followers are also challenged and feel empowered; this nurtures them into becoming loyal, high performers. The transactional leaders only work within the already established organizational culture whereas the transformational leaders change the existing organizational culture.


In the ever changing business environment it is very clear that the key to successful leadership is influence and not authority. Thus, leadership is becoming a more enabling, participative and distributed in nature opposed to remaining directive and performing. The old age concept of “Great Man” theory has gone and the modern day concept of transformational leadership coupled with distributive leadership has become the key for all the organizations.

(Source – “Developing leaders and Leadership development by Martin Kets de Vries and Konstantin Molotov”)

Vishwas Vats

MHRM, IIT Kharagpur(2015-17)