Communication Faculty Publications and Presentations

The Language of Transformational Leaders: Addressing the Needs of Followers

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Over the years leadership has been studied from a number of approaches. Trait theories were a first attempt to look into what characteristics a person should have to become an effective leader (Mann, 1959; Stogdill, 1948). Researchers soon recognized that one of the deficiencies of trait theory was its adoption of the leader as a homogenous role player, autonomous to the variations in the leader-follower dynamic across differing environments. Hollander and Julian (1969) suggested that the increased interest in the situational aspects of leadership resulted from recognition that there were specific situational demands made on leaders, depending upon the task of the group and other situational variables. Researchers’ recognition of the inability of trait analysis to fully explain leadership utility initially lead to the behavioral style approach which suggested situational variables moderate a leader’s effectiveness (Fiedler, 1967; Hersey & Blanchard, 1969).French and Raven (1959) in their research on social power asserted that a leader may influence a follower using different bases of power. The researchers further stated that an ability to influence a follower is accorded to the leader by the follower, and without follower acceptability, a legitimate leader’s power to influence is hindered. Barbuto, Fritz, and Matkin (2001) suggest that French and Raven’s (1959) bases of social power are related to transformational and transactional leadership. Recognizing follower acceptance as a key element in leadership effectiveness has lead researchers to investigate followers as a primary environmental link to organizational success.


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The Journal of American Academy of Busines