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Analyzing and Contrast Transformational and Servant Leadership Essay Sample

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Analyzing and Contrast Transformational and Servant Leadership Essay Sample

There are many varying approaches to leadership. Some leadership approaches are established on the traits in which the leaders exemplify. While others are based on behaviors that focus on the leaders’ behaviors and how it may influence followers.

In this paper we will place focus on the transformational and servant leadership approaches. Both of these approaches can be labeled as relational approaches, as they are situated on the relationship between a leader and a follower. The relationship between leaders and followers play are important aspects in the in each of these approaches. As indicated by Kouzes and Posner (2017), “empirical research shows that leaders who spend the most time and energy developing operative relationships among the people the work with are viewed by their direct reports as the most effective and in turn have the highest level of engagement by their direct reports” (p. 197).

A summary of each approach will be provided as well as viewing some of the similarities and differences between the two approaches. This paper will also touch on the relationship between leaders and followers and the impact it can have on an organization. The relationship between leaders and followers is essential for the efficient and effective performance of an organization. Without this key element organizations will underperform in many areas of business.

A Summary of Transformational Leadership

In 1978, James MacGregor Burns, began his endeavor in joining the role of a leaders with the role of a follower (Northouse, 2016). Transformational leadership is mainly focused on making sure the followers are motivated to meet the organizations vision or goal.

There are four characteristics that frame transformational leadership: idealized or charisma influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individual consideration. With idealized influences the thought is that followers look up to the leaders as a role model when the leader recognizes the needs of the follower. Inspirational motivation involves leaders communicating their high expectations to achieve the vison and encouraging the commitment of follower through motivation. Intellectual stimulation challenges the followers’ creativity and innovativeness.

The transformational leadership approach heightens the awareness of the follower which induces a need for the follower to perform at a high level. The follower becomes more interested in the needs of the team and less interested in their own needs for the betterment of the organization. This reaction can be largely attributed to the level of trust the follower has in the leader. It should also be noted that trust must be reciprocated, as the leaders must also have trust in the follower. “Transformational leaders should engender higher levels of trust in followers as the exhibit support, encouragement, concern and respect for their followers” (Zhu, Newman, Miao, Angus, 2013, p. 96.)

A Summary of Servant Leadership

Originated by Robert Greenleaf in 1970, the servant leadership approach asserts that there is a special and authentic bond between leaders and followers. “Servant leadership emphasizes that leaders be attentive to the concerns of their followers, empathize with them, and nurture them” (Northouse, 2016, p. 225). In 2002, Larry C. Spear identified ten characteristics that he deemed critical to the servant leadership approach (Spear and Lawrence, 2002). These characteristics include listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion as well as conceptualization, foresight, stewardship commitment to the growth of people and building community. These characteristics construct a pragmatic blueprint of what servant leadership approach signifies. During this research they were able to describe fundamental attributes of servant leadership. These attributes were classified in two categories: functional attributes and accompanying attributes.

Servant leadership is about exposing followers to new experiences and helping them to recognize their potential and how to maximize that potential. It is about understanding the follower and seeing things from their perspective. It is about humbling oneself in order to focus on the needs of others and it involves the having the intelligence to look ahead to the future and to help others to see into the future. It is inspiring followers to envision the great possibilities for their lives and helping them set into motion the work to achieve those possibilities.

Servant leadership is an act of investing time, experience, knowledge and sacrifice into a follower and then seeing fruits of the investment. It involves being the guiding light by providing hope and guidance to the follower while receiving their buy-in to work towards a vision. Servant leadership requires intimate relationship building. When bonds of a relationships are built between leaders and followers, leaders can then guide followers towards self-efficacy. It’s about learning the followers’ personal goals and aspirations and helping to maneuver to attain them.

Similarities between the Two Approaches

Both servant leadership and transformational leaders use effective communication to convey the vision or goal. Being able to effectively convey a vision is crucial to getting the followers acceptance of the leader. Being able to communicate the vison will bring followers into alignment so that the vision can be implemented and executed. A well-articulated vision can produce follower buy-in that result in successful promotion of the vision.

Yet another similarity is that both approaches develop followers into leaders. Each approach takes the follower on a journey of new experience which in return allows the follower to experience self-actualization that will allow them to optimize their potential and boost their performance to a higher level.

Both leadership approaches motivate followers to surpass their self-doubt to exceed pass the low expectations they have of themselves. Self-doubt undermines a followers’ ability to perform. When a follower has self-confidence, they become more motivated to accomplish goals.

Empowerment is yet another similarity between the leadership approaches. Both approaches provide empowerment which allows the follower to visualize, react and take the necessary actions to work towards individual transformation. When followers are empowered, there are improvements in productivity and the overall performance of the organization. As indicated by Kouzes & Pozner (2017), “long before empowerment entered the mainstream vocabulary, exemplary leaders understood how important it was for their constituents to feel strong, capable and efficacious” (p. 221).

Differences between the Two Approaches

Although transformational and servant leadership approaches have many characteristics that overlap, there is one significant difference. Transformational leadership approach has a focal point in making sure the follower achieves the prime interest of the vision of the leader. Whereas servant leadership, focal point is that of the interest of the follower and their well-being. Servant leadership is not based on getting results, however the main focus is serving others. Whereas transformational leadership is results driven and strive for organizational results. Harvey (as cited in Stone, A., Russell, R. & Patterson, K.) contends that the servant leader’s primary objective is the workers and their growth, then the customer base and finally the organizational bottom line (p. 355)


Servant leadership can be equated with the best supporting actor role as they lead from behind the scenes developing and affirming the follower, whereas transformational leadership can be likened to the best actor role as followers are developed to meet the goals and visions established by the leader. An organization with aggressively changing climate is more suitable for the transformational leadership approach. Whereas, the servant leadership approach would thrive in an organizational climate that is less aggressive and less agile.

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