Consider these three real life examples from my experiences and observations with transformational and servant leaders not “playing” or integrating well together. It creates some type of extreme imbalance within an organization when this dynamic takes place. See if you can relate to any of these examples in your own places of work or service.
The first example is of an organization where transformational leadership was the primary style of the original leader. Therefore, this leader provided strong vision and direction for the organization that contributed to organizational success and a strong reputation. At the same time, the accepted leadership of the organization was so bent in the direction of transformational leadership that organizational members suffered from burnout and succession planning proved difficult. The organization lacked servant leadership which would have helped to pay attention to individual stress levels and a healthier rhythm of organizational life for organizational members. Over time, this transformational leader acquired so much individual power within the organization that it resulted in traumatic moral failure that harmed a large number of people within and outside of the organization.
The second example is of an organization where servant leadership was the primary style of the original leader and the successor. While care and concern for organizational members seemed to be in place, the organization lacked vision and direction. It was unclear to the members what the direction and values were of the organization. This dynamic created confusion and chaos within the organization and among its members. As the lack of vision and direction continued, a strong culture of infighting and competition developed within the organization. The lack of transformational leadership contributed to chaos, confusion, conflict, and rivalry within this organization.
In this next example, the Board of Directors represented transformational leadership in the organization by rallying for a compelling vision and direction for the organization. On the other hand, the CEO of the organization and his primary associate both represented servant leadership as a means of contributing to the lives of employees and the community served through the organization. Unfortunately, a conflict avoidance culture existed in this organization which contributed to the sense that one perspective had to be right while the other was wrong. It seemed the perspective of the Board of Directors won in this situation and the environment valued transformational leadership over servant leadership. Tactics such as force, bullying, and inappropriate uses of power were utilized to compel others to “move forward” with the vision while motivation was low. The lack of integrated transformational and servant leadership caused a power struggle which led the organization to remain stuck for a many years.
Questions for interaction:
What has your experience been with an imbalance of these two leadership styles? What is it in these examples that you can relate to from your own experience? What additional insights do you have to share?
Next, read and respond to Part 3 to reflect upon examples of leaders that balance the two styles.