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Power and transformational leadership in public organizations

Faye Barth-Farkas (Department of Organization and HR Management, German Police University, Muenster, Germany)
Antonio Vera (Department of Organization and HR Management, German Police University. Muenster, Germany)

International Journal of Leadership in Public Services

ISSN: 1747-9886

Article publication date: 10 November 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between perceived power and transformational leadership in the public sector.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors investigate this topic empirically in the context of German police forces using a between-groups design, manipulating power and statistically analyzing the results on the multifactor leadership questionnaire.

Findings

Police officers with a high perception of power achieve significantly lower scores on transformational leadership compared to their low power counterparts.

Research limitations/implications

The study contributes to advancing public leadership theory by showing that transformational leadership, which is considered as particularly useful in public organizations, is likely to be adversely affected by leaders’ power. Furthermore, it also extends on the literature on power by providing first empirical evidence that power has a significant impact not only on factors such as the pursuit of a goal, social behavior, or affect, but also on leadership.

Practical implications

The results suggest either to control power accumulation in leadership positions of public organizations, for instance by implementing flat hierarchies, or to come to terms with more authoritative leadership styles in top management.

Originality/value

To the best of knowledge, the authors provide the first study that investigates the impact of power on transformational leadership in the public sector using an experimental design and quantitative empirical data.

Keywords

Citation

Barth-Farkas, F. and Vera, A. (2014), "Power and transformational leadership in public organizations", International Journal of Leadership in Public Services, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 217-232. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJLPS-07-2014-0011

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited