Importance Of Communication In Transformational Servant Leadership

Definition of transformational servant leadership (TSL)

Hoch et al. (2018) mention transformational servant leadership refers to the leadership style that involves leading subordinates through changes by training and supporting them to embrace the change. Effelsberg, Solga and Gurt (2014) define transformative style of leadership style as the style of leadership where the leaders works toward bringing about total transformation in the modes of operations of their teams in order to achieve predetermined goals. Van Dierendonck et al. (2014) defines servant leadership style as the style of leading by putting the needs of the followers more importance. Thus, transformational servant leadership style combines the two styles of leadership to lead organisational towards embracing changes smoothly.

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                                                                              Figure 1. Transformational servant leadership style

                                                                                               (Source: Hoch et al., 2018)

The transformational servant leaders instead merely ordering their followers to take actions towards achievement of the predetermined goals, leads them to the goals. They recognize the present aspects of the modes of operations of the followers and point out the changes which have to be brought out in order to achieve the targets. They mentor and train their followers to embrace instead of coercing and threatening them to embrace changes. Banks et al.(2016) point out in this transformational servant leaders encourage their followers to participate in the processes of making strategies to achieve targets. They analyse the external market situations and the business requirements of the organisations. They then judge the present capabilities of their staffs and the required capabilities to align them with the business requirements. The gap between the actual and the requisite capabilities enable them to point out the training needs. They motivate their followers to perform better and lead by setting example.

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Tourish (2014) points out that effective communication plays a very important role in transformational servant style of leadership. This is because transformational servant leaders as Effelsberg, Solga and Gurt, (2014) point out, need to communicate with their followers at every stage of achievement of the target. The essence of transformational servant leadership style lies in the fact they lead the organisations they head towards changes which would lead the later to adapt to the market situations. Thus, the transformational servant leaders have to bring about changes within the modes of the operations of the organisation and encourage their followers to embrace the changes. The following are the important roles which communication would play in TSL:

Burke (2017) mentions that communication enables transformational servant leaders to lead their followers through changes which are so crucial to adapt to the prevailing market conditions. Piercy (2016) points out that the present dynamic macroeconomic conditions like continuous changes in government policies and economic conditions necessitate organisations to adapt to them. The employees of the organisations have to gain knowledge about newly emerging methods of operations in order to perform highly and serve the customers better. These situations and the fear of redundancy often create conflicts between the management and the workers. Using inappropriate leadership styles like authoritative leadership styles elevate the conflicts and practically hit the productivity of the organisations. Transformational servant leadership style involves continuous communication with employees and dealing with their fears and insecurities, thus managing conflicts. Thus, employees are able to embrace changes more willingly which boosts the performances within organisations. This analysis shows that TSL enables organisations embrace changes more effectively.

Importance of effective communication in transformative leadership style

Jones, Michelfelder and Nair (2017) mentions that communication enables transformational servant leaders to motivate their followers to embrace changes and elevate their performances. The transformational servant leaders usually come into play when the companies need to tide over tough situations. It is evident according to Piercy (2016) that the need to adapt to market changes and adapting to new ways of operations create immense pressure on the employees. This pressure often impedes smooth change management and leads to conflicts between employees of different levels. Transformational servant leaders recognise the need to embrace the changes and motivate their subordinates to embrace the changes. Continuous communication between the leader like the departmental heads and their followers create a more transparent environment within the organisations. This continuous communication between employers and employees creates trust which encourages participation of more employees. Thus, smooth communication enables the transformational servant leaders to motivate their employees to participate in the change process, thus leading the organisations through challenging situations.

Hesselbarth and Schaltegger (2014) point out that communication paves way for the transformational servant leaders ensure sustainability of organisations they lead. Smooth communication as pointed out by Kurucz et al. (2017), encourages the employees to participate in the change processes. As Piercy (2016), already pointed out that the dynamic external market conditions like changes in laws and economic conditions necessitate the business organisations to adapt to them in order to thrive in the market. Effelsberg, Solga and Gurt, (2014) mention that these changes often require the employees to bring about changes in the modes of operations which creates insecurity and fear among the later which tantamount to conflicts. These conflicts impedes the organisational changes or in other words, impedes the organisations from gaining sustainability. Transformational servant leaders establish smooth communication with the employees and motivate them to embrace the change. These leaders communicate the benefits of adapting to market changes and provide their followers trainings to enhance their skills. This enable the organisations embrace changes more effectively and sustain in the market. Thus, effective communication enables transformational servant leaders to lead organisations they head towards sustainability.


                                                              Figure 2. Figure showing roles effective communication in TSL

                                                                                            (Source: Tourish, 2014)

The following are the measures which transformational servant leaders can take to create a continuous stream of communication to influence followers and gain their trust:

The transformational servant leaders should establish a strong chain of formal communication which would bind the all employees across designations and departments. The formal communication should be based on two way communication between the superiors and subordinates. The superiors would be able to give instructions while the subordinates would be able to convey their feedbacks, fears and insecurities to their superiors. This two way communication system would enhance trust among the apex management and the employees.

Setting up of a strong formal communication may require the employees to communicate using emails on their official ids and formal office whatsapp groups. The transformational servant leaders should train their subordinates to operate along these newly established lines of formal communications. The leaders should mentor the employees to deal with their fears and insecurities regarding the new communication channels. This would motivate the employees and inculcate trust within them about the apex management (Piercy, 2016). Thus, training of employees would enable the organisations to build trust among them, thus enhancing effective communication.

The transformational servant leaders should encourage employees to communicate on social media platforms like Facebook. This would create a semi-formal environment which would employees communicate their fears, expectations and insecurities with employees of higher posts. These semi-formal communication channels would thus cement trust between employees of different designations (Hoch et al., 2018).


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Burke, W.W., 2017. Organization change: Theory and practice. Sage Publications.

Disterheft, A., Caeiro, S.S., Leal Filho, W. & Azeiteiro, U.M., (2016). The INDICARE-model–measuring and caring about participation in higher education’s sustainability assessment. Ecological indicators, 63, pp.172-186.

Effelsberg, D., Solga, M. & Gurt, (2014). Getting followers to transcend their self-interest for the benefit of their company: Testing a core assumption of transformational leadership theory. Journal of Business and Psychology, 29(1), pp.131-143.

Hesselbarth, C. & Schaltegger (2014). Educating change agents for sustainability–learnings from the first sustainability management master of business administration. Journal of cleaner production, 62, pp.24-36.

Hoch, J.E., Bommer, W.H., Dulebohn, J.H. & Wu, D., (2018). Do ethical, authentic, and servant leadership explain variance above and beyond transformational leadership? A meta-analysis. Journal of Management, 44(2), pp.501-529.

Jones, S.A., Michelfelder, D. & Nair, I., (2017). Engineering managers and sustainable systems: the need for and challenges of using an ethical framework for transformative leadership. Journal of Cleaner Production, 140, pp.205-212.

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Piercy, N.F., 2016. Market-led strategic change: Transforming the process of going to market. Routledge.

Santamaría, L.J. & Santamaría, A.P., (2015). Counteracting educational injustice with applied critical leadership: Culturally responsive practices promoting sustainable change. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 17(1), pp.22-42.

Schaltegger, S., Hansen, E.G. & Lüdeke-Freund, F., (2016). Business models for sustainability: Origins, present research, and future avenues..

Tourish, D., 2014. Leadership, more or less? A processual, communication perspective on the role of agency in leadership theory. Leadership, 10(1), pp.79-98.

Van Dierendonck, D., Stam, D., Boersma, P., De Windt, N. & Alkema, J., (2014). Same difference? Exploring the differential mechanisms linking servant leadership and transformational leadership to follower outcomes. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(3), pp.544-562.