“Transformational Leadership and the Performance of Research and Development Project Groups” is a technical analysis of the use of transformational leadership in a research and development (R&D) environment. Transformational leadership is a value based leadership theory that focuses on inspiring and motivating subordinates through communicating the leader’s values to the employee (O’Hair & Friedrich, 1992). In his research of leadership theories, Yukl further defines transformational leadership as “the process of influencing major changes in the attitudes and assumptions of organization members and building commitment for the organization’s mission, objectives, and strategies” (1989).
Leadership theories, such as Path-Goal, that received favorable consideration during the industrial age are proving to be inadequate in motivating R&D teams (Keller, 1989). Management researchers attribute the limited success of these traditional theories to the high degree of technological innovation required to explore the unknown in the conceptualization of new procedures or products (Keller, 1992)(Yukl, 1989).
As our industry transitions from mechanization to automation, the methods for motivating and leading employees must also transition (O’Hair & Friedrich, 1992). Transformation leadership provides the foundation to support this change.
2. Initiating structure and consideration will each predict higher project group performance.
3. Type of R&D work will moderate the relationships of charismatic leadership and intellectual stimulation with project group performance, such that stronger relationships will be found in research projects than in development projects.
4. Project group performance at time 1 will predict higher levels of charismatic leadership and intellectual stimulation at time 2.
The author uses the performance of professional employees from three R&D organizations to form the empirical evidence to support and validate his hypotheses. A review of his findings would indicate that transformational leadership has applicability for the 20th century leader and is worthy of additional research and refinement.
I would conclude from the empirical evidence presented in this article, research conducted by the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and my experience and knowledge of military leadership principles that transformation leadership is a leadership theory worthy of consideration by managers of professional employees.
The author’s analysis and use of research data to formulate his hypotheses adds to their credibility and validity. Items from Bass’s multifactor leadership questionnaire are used to measure the attributes of charismatic leadership and intellectual stimulation (Keller, 1992).
Yukl research substantiated the validity and use of this questionnaire in measuring leadership behavior in his study of leadership theories (1989). The author also uses the time proven Stogdill leader behavior description questionnaire, Form XII, to measure the attributes of consideration and initiating structure (Keller, 1992).
A strong argument could be made, based on the results of his research, that transformational leadership fulfills the four basic tenets of the strategic leadership: goal setting, situational knowledge, communications competence, and anxiety management.
Leaders of professional groups must be proactive in establishing goals. O’Hair & Friedrich identify “shared values” and “vision” as two critical factors necessary to establish realistic goals (1992). Bass’s research of intellectually stimulating mentors showed that they possessed the charismatic characteristics of vision and competence (Keller, 1992). The research findings on transformational leadership in this report supports Bass’s initial research because the charismatic leadership and intellectual stimulation measurements had high intercorrelations (Keller, 1992). Vision is critical to establishing goals. Given the high correlation of intellectual stimulation in these two research reports, one can see that transformational leadership is an effective tool for setting goals.
Situational knowledge is enhanced by knowing one’s organization, employees, and self (O’Hair & Friedrich, 1992). Yukl emphasizes that leaders transform their subordinates by making them more aware of the importance and value of task outcomes (1989). Keller found in his research that transformational leadership yielded high project quality and budget/schedule performance by both members and management (1992). Given these findings, one could attribute the high performance to an in depth knowledge of one’s abilities, organization, and team members.
Transformational leadership places considerable emphasis on value sharing by leaders and members (O’Hair & Friedrich, 1992). This sharing by everyone on the team helps to reduce the chance for excessive pride while at the same time increasing each team member’s situational knowledge.
The transformational leadership theory supports the critical communications element of empowerment in that it supports team building. O’Hair & Friedrich stress that team building allows work to be accomplished with less direction from management (1992). A key premise of the theory is inspiring innovation (Yukl, 1989). The high charismatic leadership ratings in this report supports the premise that decentralization of task inspire innovation (Keller, 1992).
O’Hair and Friedrich maintain that persistence helps in overcoming anxieties (1992). The closeness of an R&D team coupled with the infusion and sharing of the leader’s values supports the idea that transformational leadership is an effective mechanism for reducing and controlling anxiety. Although this idea is not supported by a survey or empirical evidence in the study, support can be gained from deduction. Maintaining persistence is critical to controlling anxiety (O’Hair & Friedrich, 1992). Given the fact that a transformational leader must have perseverance and be committed to his vision, one could deduce that transformational leadership uses persistence to help control anxiety.
Although research indicates that transformational leadership has diversity and is a theory applicable for the information age, the author’s technical analysis is narrowly focused. Critics have argued that narrow focus has been and continues to be a flaw of management researchers (Yukl, 1989). Keller’s research on the use of Path-Goal in an R&D environment (Keller, 1989) offered an excellent opportunity for the integration of a researcher’s findings. This would have broaden the focus of his research analysis and made an even stronger argument for the use of transformational leadership in an R&D setting.
The results of this study clearly indicate that transformational leadership is a useful variable into the literature on leadership in professional organizations (Keller, 1992). The study’s results support Yukl’s argument that more research is needed (1989). The research findings of this article indicate that effective leaders of R&D projects are inspirational and mission oriented (Keller, 1992).
Much of the work in the Army’s acquisition community is R&D oriented. My experience in this community as a software engineer for the U. S. Army’s Communications and Electronics Command, Research and Development Engineering Center, proved that the traditional theories of leadership had little, if any, applicability in establishing and maintaining a vision. In some instances, these traditional theories were counter productive in motivating R&D team members. Therefore, a more effective leadership theory is needed for inspiring and motivating subordinates in this environment.
The results of transformational leadership on R&D projects indicates that it is results oriented. As R&D dollars become scarce, and managers are asked to do more with less, innovative leadership concepts must be explored and implemented to capitalize upon the advances of technology.
The formation of an Army Acquisition Corps and the deployment of soldiers to Somalia in a humanitarian role adds emphasis to the changing role of the Army. Army leaders in the R&D community must transition from planning battlefield strategies to planning support strategies. Increases in the combat effectiveness of new weapon systems will be contingent upon leaders becoming integral component of their R&D teams. The theory of transformational leadership facilities this integration, and it’s design stimulates innovation and commitment from all members of the R&D team.
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House presents three studies to support a path-goal theory of leadership based on the path-goal hypothesis. Cameron University Library.
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Keller presents a study of four research and development organizations that validates the need for clarity as a moderator in this type of organization. His study found that the relationship between initiating structure and job satisfaction increased proportionally as the need for clarity among subordinates increased. Monmouth College Library.
Keller, Robert T. “Transformation Leadership and the Performance of Research
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Keller presents a longitudinal study of the transformational leadership model. He presents four hypotheses to predict the performance of the model and supports each hypothesis with an analysis of the performance of three research and development project groups. Monmouth College Library.
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O’Hair and Friedrich describe some of the most prevalent leadership theories and their applicability to effective management and their use in strategic communications. City University Bookstore.
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Yukl reviews the major theories of leadership and summarizes the empirical research. He also identifies deficiencies of past research and suggest a focus for future research. Cameron University Library.