Leaders comes in many forms, and great leaders span across organizations big and small. Although there are many great leaders, it is my belief that certain leaders are more effective than others. This may be due to preferences and the types of leadership traits that motivates me as an employee, but my belief is leaders that adopt transformational leadership qualities have a greater impact on organizations, and employee proactivity compared to other forms of leadership. Transformational leadership is that which:
“… facilitates a redefinition of a people’s mission and vision, a renewal of their commitment and the restructuring of their systems for goal accomplishment. It is a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into leaders and may convert leaders into moral agents.” (Leithwood, as cited in Cashin et al., 2000, p.1)
Chen and Kanfer suggest that transformational leaders motivate their group of followers by transforming the values and priorities of followers and motivating them to perform beyond their expectations (Chen and Kanfer, 2006). Transformational leaders articulate an attractive future vision, fill employees work with meaning, and inspire their followers (Bass, 1985). It is believed that a good transformational leader can move their employees from the need to survive (Maslow’s hierarchy), to elevated levels (Kelly, 2003; Yukl, 1989). While I agree that transformational leaders have a direct impact on their employees my focus is how transformational leaders can have a direct impact on the proactivity of their employees.
Overall the way a leader acts towards their employees in the workplace can have a direct impact on that employee’s proactive behavior (Belschak and Hartog, 2010). Readings from House suggest that companies in the 21st century will need to have team members who are proactive.
“Formal organizations of the twenty-first century will need members who exercise independent initiative, autonomous judgment and decision making, analytical thinking, and innovative approaches to tasks and problems. Consequently, leaders will need to stimulate followers intellectually and develop their competence and independence.” (House, 1995, p. 425)
Crant also emphasizes the need for proactive team members in today’s global work context (Crant, 2000). As competition amongst organizations continues to grow I see the need for proactive employees becoming an essential part of an organizations competitive advantage because according to Campbell there is a need to anticipate the future and act in advance is an approach to mastering change in a complex and uncertain work environment (Campbell, 2000). Research also conducted by Orchard, Parker & Bradley, and Valle has called for organizations to be more flexible, adaptive, entrepreneurial, and innovative to meet the changing demands of today’s global working environment (Orchard, 1998; Parker & Bradley, 2000; Valle, 1999). Having a workforce that can act proactively can lead to positive organizational outcomes.
More on organizational impact of proactivity
Previous researchers has also shown that proactivity can be associated with positive organizational outcomes, such as creativity (Chen and Hou, 2016), task performance (Weseler and Niessen, 2016), job satisfaction (Anseel et al., 2015), and organizational commitment (Saks et al., 2011). Beyond organizational outcomes, proactive behavior is also linked to overall career success. When defining career success, I define it as Judge stated in terms of positive psychological or work-related outcomes or achievements one accumulates as a result of work experiences. (Judge et al., 1995). According to Crant, proactive individuals identify and solve problems, look for new opportunities, enter into action and persist until they attain change. Furthermore, they create situations leading to effective performance (Crant, 1995). In addition, research conducted by Seibert, Crant and Kraimer showed that having proactive personality traits has a positive relationship between individual’s and objective career success. (Seibert, Crant, & Kraimer, 1999).
As shown through the studies mentioned previously, proactive members of a team can have a positive impact on an organization and being proactive can directly impact ones career success. With so much research showing a positive correlation between proactivity and organizational/career success, how does a transformational leader build a proactive team?
It is my belief that this is accomplished by the common traits that make up a transformational leader. According to Bass, there are four elements that make up a transformational leader, known as the 4 I’s. (Bass, 2006)
1. Idealized influence. Charismatic vision and behavior that inspires others to follow.
2. Inspirational motivation. Capacity to motivate others to commit to the vision.
3. Intellectual stimulation. Encouraging innovation and creativity.
4. Individualized consideration. Coaching to the specific needs of followers.
When transformational leaders possess idealized influence behaviors they instill pride in their employees. As such members of their team want to follow their example. Leaders with idealized influence traits show that they will put themselves on the line for the good of their team. They also show their team members that they are confident that they can overcome difficult obstacles. Often having idealized influence attributes is known as the charismatic side of transformational leadership. In order to transform a team, idealized influence is one of the most important traits a transformational leader needs to possess.
Inspirational motivation is the second factor of transformational leadership, which incorporates those who talk optimistically about the future and communicate a compelling future and vision for their teams. Transformational leaders talk about what needs to be accomplished, and express confidence in their team members abilities to achieve their goals. This type of motivational behavior encourages a sense of team spirit.
Intellectual stimulation is the third set of behaviors and attributes, which implies that a transformational leader seeks differing perspectives when solving problems. Otherwise known as having a devil’s advocate. Transformational leaders who utilize Intellectual stimulation promote “out of the box” thinking.
Individualized consideration is the fourth attribute in transformational leadership. Transformational leaders who display individualized consideration spend time teaching and mentoring their team members. Through this approach, leaders encourage their team members to develop themselves. A lot of times transformational leaders will treat others as individuals, rather than simply group members. Getting to know their team members, and identify the differing needs, abilities, and aspirations of each of their team members.
I believe when leaders utilize the combination of idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimuli and individualized consideration they can not only transform an organization, they can also influence the personality traits of their team members. Research done by Hong has validated that employee’s proactivity can increase when they have an empowering leader (Hong, 2016). I believe empowering leaders possess the traits, and attributes that are prevalent in a transformational leadership.