Transformational Leadership in Kenya

Introduction This paper expounds on Transformational Leadership based on the concepts developed in class ML 510 (August – September 2009). Other than the class concepts, the works of Northouse, 2003; Yukl, 1989; Collins, 2001; Tichy & Ulrich, 1984; Bass & Steidlmeir, 1998, informed the theoretical frameworks for the paper. Theories and concepts informed the basis of whether such leadership factors do or not exist in the Kenyan situation. Not withstanding, it is notable that leadership of NIST is undergoing a similar process as identified in the literature under review.

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In their article “The Leadership Challenge – A Call for the Transformational Leader,” Noel M. Tichy and David O. Ulrich seek to define a new brand of leadership consistent with the changing nature of the US Economy and world market. They seek to define the qualities of a transformational leader and delineate the organizational dynamics of change a leader must manage, in terms of structure, culture and the individuals that make up an organization. 0 years after this article, there exists a typical situation at NIST and perhaps many other organizations in Kenya, only that owing to cultural orientations and value prioritization, it is likely that the opposite of the views expressed by the authors are practiced. Transformational leadership is a process that changes and transforms individuals. It is concerned with emotions, values, ethics, standards, and long-term goals and includes assessing follower’s motives, satisfying their needs, and treating them as full human beings (Northouse, 2003).

A transformational leader is defined in terms of how the leader affects followers, who are intended to trust, admire, and respect him/her. Bass, (1990) identified three ways in which leaders transform followers: by increasing their awareness of task importance and value; by getting them to focus first on team or organizational goals rather than their own interests; and by activating their higher-order needs. Moreover, the transformational leader appeals to the follower’s emotions, attraction, and support through evoking, stirring, coaching, and mentoring them.

Northouse (2003:174) lists four transformational leadership factors as idealized influence; inspirational motivation; intellectual stimulation; and individualized consideration. However, Tracey and Hinkin (1998) suggest that the parameters of these four factors often overlap with similar conceptualization of leadership causing confusion. Further, Bryman (1992), for example points out that transformational and charismatic leadership are often treated synonymously even though in some models of leadership (e. g. Bass, 1985), charisma is only part of the transformational leadership.

Tichy and Ulrich (1984), argue that the changing nature of the US economy in the early 1980s was driving the need to revise organizational culture to ensure that US companies remained competitive in the world market. To navigate this cultural shift, Tichy and Ulrich called for a new breed of leaders who could help an organization develop a new vision, gather support and buy-in from stakeholders, guide the organization through a transformative phase and possess the capacity to institutionalize changes over time.

The globalization era demands without any exceptions the need for transformational leaders in Kenya; however, the country is seriously devoid of such leaders. Aseka, (2005) asserts that Kenya is a country where resources (both natural and human) are wasted due to tribalism, nepotism, political arrogance and the inability of those in power to realize that building a nation means mobilizing people, motivating and inspiring them with ideals that would make them involved to change their lives.

In view of these ideals, factors and concepts of transformational leadership, Kenya as at now, is deficient of such behaviour embedded amongst the leaders, at least at the level of national governance and political realm. Not withstanding, majority of the Kenyan leaders are best described as transactional leaders whose bulk focus on the exchanges that occurs between them and followers. This is typical with politicians who win votes by promising to build roads, pay school fees for children from households, as well as contribute towards funerals and fundraising to ferrying corpses from urban areas to the rural villages for burial rites.

There is a loud cry for transformational leadership in Kenya, a leadership that depicts the concepts developed and reviewed in the literature. In appraising the works of Tichy and Ulrich, (1984) on transformational and the level 5 of leadership by Collin (2001). Tichy and Ulrich expounds on insights that describes the situation my organization is experiencing. The authors assert that transformational leaders are referred to as such because they create something new from something old.

Whereas a transactional leader might make adjustments to the organizational tri-pod of mission, structure and human resources, a transformational leader goes beyond, bringing about fundamental changes in the organization’s basic political and cultural systems. The latter sets transformational leaders apart from transactional managers. Tichy and Ulrich begin to develop their argument by presenting Lee Iacocca, former CEO of the Chrysler Corporation as a case study in transformational leadership.

Starting in the late 1970s, Iacocca “provided the leadership to transform a company from the brink of bankruptcy to profitability” (Tichy & Ulrich, p. 65). He revamped internal politics and systems, changed management structure, trimmed tens of thousands of employees, won concessions from the UAW, and translated the “loser” stigma of a government bail-out into a positive cultural shift. Beyond the description of a transformational leader, Tichy and Ulrich delineate the organizational dynamics of change, based on a number of assumptions.

The first assumption is that a trigger event indicates that change is needed, for Chrysler, the trigger was impending bankruptcy. The second assumption is that change unleashes mixed feelings – a positive impetus for change as well as strong, negative resistance from individuals and the organization. They point out that resistance can come from 3 areas: Technical systems, Political Systems and Cultural Systems. Technical systems resistance includes task-based habit and inertia, fear of change, loss of sunk costs.

Political systems resistance can come from internal coalitions against change, limitations on resource availability, and the idea that admitting that change is necessary is an indictment on past leadership. Cultural systems resistance includes the perception that an organization is one thing, and cannot be another, that the past holds security, and that current organizational culture makes change difficult. The third and fourth assumptions of organizational change are closely tied together. The third assumption is that a quick-fix cannot work, and a transformational leader is needed.

The fourth assumption takes the third to a deeper level, suggesting transformational Leadership as a key to revitalization. In order to revitalize an organization, a transformational leader must create a new vision, mobilize commitment to that vision, and institutionalize these changes in part by assessing and revamping organizational culture. A lot of these descriptions are taking place at NIST, there has been a trigger: similarly there isn’t sufficient financial base to take care of overheads, enrollment of students has been diving steep not only due to competition but also due to leadership fit.

There is no alternative but a transformational style of leadership. Tichy and Ulrich define the individual dynamics of change a transformational leader must understand and manage. They suggest change for individuals as a three-phase process: Endings, Neutral Zone, and New Beginnings. Endings need to be accepted and understood by individuals, allowing them to “disengage, disidentify, disenchant, and disorient with past practices” and find a new sense of value and worth in an organization. (pg. 1) transformational leaders guide employees through this process by replacing achievements of the past with future opportunities for glory. In the Neutral Zone, individuals feel disconnected from the past and remain emotionally unconnected from the future. Tichy and Ulrich characterize the Neutral Zone as the phase in which individuals reorient toward the new and the future. A transformational leader guides this reorientation by asking, and empowering individuals to ask, “What went wrong? ”, “why do we need to change? ”, and “what must be overcome in both attitude and behavior? In the final phase of individual change, the New Beginnings, employees begin to learn from the past, rather than dwell in it, look for new ways to interact that are not consistent with old scripts, and become excited about future possibilities. When this has happened, the Transformational leader has been successful. I think Tichy and Ulrich’s argument is compelling. They were living in a time of shifting world norms and values, often shaped by innovations in technology. 20 years down the road, a similar situation in Kenya, at NIST, we are living in an increasingly changing world.

I believe the need for leaders to do more than manage is still prevalent. My main critique of the article is that Ulrich and Tichy does not address the question of “what happens when a transformational leader leaves an organization? ” This question is important to me because it parallels a concept of Founder’s Syndrome we learned in organizational development class. The Founder’s syndrome occurs when an organization operates primarily according to the personality of a prominent person in the organization, for example, the founder, board chair/president, chief executive, etc.

It seems to me that leadership should also entail the foresight, and humility, to set the organization up for success beyond the transformational leader – or else, what’s the point? This is the point I would like to briefly focus on the book called “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. Collins presents a model of leadership, called a Level 5 leader, which I find inspiring. A level 5 leader bears a striking resemblance to a transformational leader; both a transformational leader and level 5 leader guide their organizations through change.

Both make adjustments organizational systems and structure; both go beyond, and create fundamental changes in the organization’s basic political and cultural systems. The difference between a transformational leader as defined by Ulrich and Tichy and embodied by Lee Iacocca, and Collins’ level 5 leader is ego, or lack thereof. (Collins, 2001; Tichy & Ulrich, 1984) Collins discusses Lee Iacocca, as well, but Iacocca is not one of Collins’ level 5 leaders.

Level 5 leaders are humble and unpretentious; they often credit “luck” or others for their accomplishments, while transformational leaders are seen to “create their own luck. ” (Collins, 2001; Tichy & Ulrich, 1984) Level 5 leaders are mild-mannered and shy, and they should not want to receive any public acknowledgement for their greatness. Transformational leaders such as those embodied by Iacocca seek the limelight, a trait which Tichy and Ulrich herald as one of “the important” missing elements in other types of leadership.

Combining personal humility and professional will, level 5 leaders push themselves to do whatever it takes to produce great results for their organization and they pursue successors that will continue on in their success. They possess many of the same qualities as a transformational leader, without the over-inflated ego that causes an organization to falter when the charismatic transformational leader is gone and a leadership vacuum remains. I see Level 5 leadership in my organization, and from the Vice Chancellor of the Nairobi International of Theology (NIST) on whose leadership I serve.

Conclusion By comparing and contrasting a transformational leader with the concept of level 5 leadership, I have arrived at the conclusion that it seems hard to deny that both types of leaders are exceptional and possess something unique. Transformational leaders define public values that embrace the highest and enduring principles of a group of people in order to transform organizational culture. Level 5 leaders build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.

These exceptional and committed leaders possess unique personal values that empower others to transform organizations, from the old, or from something that never existed. In Kenya, these kinds of leaders are rare, but with institutions and individuals who have realized that the way to go is to invest in leadership programmes like BLC, it is only a matter of time. References Aseka, E. M. (2005) Transformational Leadership in East Africa. Kampala: fountain Bass, B. M. (1990). From transactional to transformational leadership: Learning to share the vision. Organizational Dynamics, (Winter): 19-31.

Bass, B. M. and Steidlmeier, P. (1998). Ethics, Character and Authentic Transformational Leadership behavior. Leadrship Quaterly, 10(2), 181-217. See also at: http://cls. binghamton. edu/BassSteid. html (Accessed on 24 Sept. 2009) Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper & Row Collins, Jim. Good to Great. Harper, Collins, New York, NY. 2001. Tichy, N. M. , & Ulrich, D. O (1984) “The Leadership Challenge – A Call for the Transformational Leader” in Classical Readings of Organizational Behavior, edited by Ott, Parkes, & Simpson. Belmont, CA: Thomson-Wadsworth.


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