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Leadership and Organisational Transformation

Alan Bryman (Loughborough University of Technology)
David Gillingwater (Loughborough University of Technology)
Iain McGuinness (Loughborough University of Technology)

Management Research News

ISSN: 0140-9174

Article publication date: 1 May 1992



One of the features of the New Leadership literature that has come to exert a substantial influence over leadership research in recent years is the role of leadership in relation to organizational transformation. Leadership is increasingly depicted as concerned with instilling of vision which has often carried with it the connotation or implication of changing organizations. The term ‘transformational’ leader exemplifies this tendency. The originator of the term, Burns (1978), was referring to the transformation of those individuals who are encompassed by it, so that they become highly motivated by and engaged in the leader's cause. Increasingly, however, the term has come to refer to leadership that involves the transformation of organizations, with the image of the bold leader promoting a dramatic turnaround in his/her company's fortunes. This kind of theme receives further reinforcement from the growing business leader hagiography, which lionises (or in some cases self‐lionises) such figures as lacocca, Carlzon, Sculley, and Harvey‐Jones. These leaders have come to public attention because of the association of their leadership with the transformation of their organizations. This literature comes close to portraying the heroic leader as capable of succeeding against all odds. The leader comes across as almost omnipotent and omniscient. This impression is at least in part a function of the ex post facto character of most of the business hagiography and much of the literature linking leadership and organizational transformation: it seems almost inevitable after the event that the leader was going to succeed. He or she appears to have done all the right things at the time.


Bryman, A., Gillingwater, D. and McGuinness, I. (1992), "Leadership and Organisational Transformation", Management Research News, Vol. 15 No. 5/6, pp. 26-27.




Copyright © 1992, MCB UP Limited

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