Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A Caricature of Transformational Leadership

Written by: on February 7, 2019

The focus of Tourish’s text is on the problematic values, assumptions and practical effects of transformational leadership theory. The core proposition of this theory is that leaders should have a transformative effect on followers’ performance and worldview. These effects are said to arise through the leader’s charisma and their inspiring vision. These transformational leadership theory expectations encourage leaders to work on the self of the followers as if this were just another resource at their disposal. Followers are positioned as passive, malleable beings whose role it is to respond to leaders. [1] The reviewer of Tourish’s text has encapsulated the shadowy side of transformational leadership. That is, followers are simply a resource to be manipulated (i.e., transformed) by the charisma, vision, and influence of the transformational leader.

I think of this text as positioned to be a negative proof for my research of why true transformational leadership is so crucial. My research intends to show how coaching skills can aid pastors and church planters to develop their leadership development skills. That is the development of others into leaders rather than followers.

The text seems to portray the caricature of true transformative leadership as it concentrates power and authority in the locus of the singular leader(s), Tourish describes this as the over-attribution of agency[2]. Said singular leader(s) would then execute the obvious primary expected objective to influence followers towards the leader’s vision for organizational performance. Tourish’s views were formed by growing up in Northern Ireland at the height of “the Troubles.” He witnessed, “seemingly charismatic and indubitably influential individuals advocated political ends in the pursuit of which the lives of their followers were of little significance.”[3] It is no wonder he chooses to include the cases of Jonestown and corporate America’s Enron to validate his claims.

Authentic leadership development is striving to move away from charismatic leadership towards transformational leadership. Transforming leaders can be described as charismatic, inspiring, morally uplifting, and focused on developing followers into leaders. However, the signature difference between a charismatic leader and a transforming leader is the focus on developing or transforming followers into leaders. Furthermore, leadership is not defined by the exercise of power but the capacity to increase the sense of power among those led. The essential work of the leader is to create more leaders.[4] Perhaps this obvious distinction, in fact, defines worthy or appropriate transformational leadership.

So to wrap up this blog post up, Tourish points out the predictable results of consolidating authority and power in the hands of a select few who then “transform” their followers to do their bidding. I contend that appropriate transformational leadership instead advocates for raising followers to become leaders, allowing others to have access to the table, and adding voices to the collective of the organization. As Tourish points out, hierarchal leadership has failed time, and again, it is time for authentic collaborative leadership. This transformative leadership approach is even more true of the local church serving its local community. This is the original methodology of our organization’s founder.

[1]   Wilson, Suze. “Book Review: The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective.” Organization 22, no. 1 (January 2015): 150–52. doi:10.1177/1350508413510000.

[2] Tourish, Dennis, The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective (New York:NY: Routledge, 2013) 10.

[3] Tourish, The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership, 13.

[4] Kegan, Robert and Lisa Lahey, “Pursing Authentic Leadership Development,” in Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, ed. Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khuran et al. (Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2010) 741.


About the Author

Harry Fritzenschaft

Harry is the Coordinator of Coaching for Multiply Vineyard (the church planting resource arm for Vineyard USA) and part-time pastor of business administration for the Vineyard Church of Houston. He is a certified coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and is pursuing a DMin in Leadership and Global Perspective with a focus on internal coaching networks. Harry has been married to Gloria for almost forty-two years and has two grown children; Michelle, who is married to Brandon and has two sons (Caleb and Judah), and Mark, who is engaged to Cannus. He loves making new friends (living and dead) from different perspectives, watching college football with Mark, and helping global ministry leaders (especially church planters and pastors) accomplish their goals in fulfilling their call. He especially loves learning about and nurturing internal coaching networks.

8 responses to “A Caricature of Transformational Leadership”

  1. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    This is fascinating to me Harry. If my question here is out of order, please do tell me, but . . .

    have there been instances when coaching has steered a leader, who was heading down the path to “the dark side” back to the light? If so, it seems like coaching should be woven into each leaders “financial and benefit package” for the overall health of all!

  2. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Jacob, You ask a good question. Unfortunately, coaching alone is intended to bring up and out what is within the client (the one being coached). However, if a pastoral leader has access to a team of resources (e.g., a mentor, a spiritual director, and a coach), perhaps these would act as guardrails to keep them from going off track. I think it would be amazingly proactive and forward thinking for a church organization to care enough about pastors’ long term emotional, mental, and physical health to provide access to these resources. In the Vineyard, we just received a Lilly Foundation grant to provide these resources for some 30-40 pastors per year across seven affinity groups (female pastors, Spanish speaking pastors, pastors of color, bi-vocational pastors, church planters, pastors within 5-7 years of retirement, and those succeeding a long term pastor). I am excited to be invited to be one of the coaches for this process and look forward to seeing how the Lord will utilize this pastoral well-being program over the next five years. Many blessings on you as you strive to stay healthy to better serve our Lord and your flock.

  3. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Harry – thank you for this. I appreciate you and your view of Tourish’s work to be more of a caricature. I think part of what seemed an exaggeration can be helpful for developing guardrails and the insistence of finding a different way forward. His examples were extreme (Enron, Jonestown, etc) and yet challenged me to practice more scrutiny in my own life. In order to not allow our leadership to grow into something ugly, we must tend to the soil of our lives in small, practical ways. Surely coaching would be part of tending to it!

  4. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Andrea, I appreciate your passion for this topic. While Tourish is a university professor, I am far more interested in how to keep those who start our well from pursuing dark side methodology in pursuit of leading themselves and others in the church. I am continually amazed at church leaders who think performance results (the work) ever comes before how you treat and interact with people (staff, congregation, and community). I have seen and experienced this at both small and mid-level size churches. I wonder with great respect and sensitivity if those leaders of larger, more empirically substantiated churches are most vulnerable because of the accolades and deference of their peers, colleagues, and followers. My personal coaching experience is that often the desire for coaching is motivated by how do I grow my church(plant). Coaching (along with spiritual direction) can help a leader look within if they are humble enough to go there. Many blessings on your research, I am excited for you and the many you will help.

  5. Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Great blog, Harry. I agree with your statement that ‘the main difference between a charismatic leader and a transforming leader is the focus on transforming followers into leaders.’ True transformational leaders will indeed create other leaders and encourage them to take credit for their accomplishments and feel empowered to perform. Your final statement that ‘transformational leadership advocates for raising followers to become leaders, allowing others to have access to the table, and adding voices to the collective of the organization’ was SPOT ON, my friend. This is the formula for a truly great leader.

  6. Jenn Burnett says:

    Your nurturing heart shines through in this post Harry! How blessed is God’s Kingdom that you are a builder within it! I’d love to pick your brain about how we empower people around us. You talk about leading to develop more leaders, which I am wholeheartedly on board with. And I want to preface this next question by affirming I believe there are a lot of different models of ‘good leaders’. But do we need to also do a better job of sharing influence/power/decision making/vision creation with people who will never become leaders? I feel like Tourish at the end was trying to imagine a system where all people had more influence on the direction of an organization. Do you think there is a place for this in healthy Transformational leadership? Thanks for your wisdom!

  7. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Jenn, You ask a great question! I was reminded recently that “models” are but “labels” from someone else who studied the one actually doing the work. To your question, I suppose the question revolves around what is a leader? Is it someone who will only “lead” in the organization I have been given to lead? What about outside my organization (that is my local church)? Jesus, was always about discipling, leading, and developing others. The disciples questioned if some outside of Jesus local band should be doing the works of he Kingdom. I suppose there are many who would say this is not the classical definition of leadership (including many who would self proclaim, “I am not a leader!”) What makes a leader is not labels or nomenclature, but rather who is pouring themselves out to influence and develop others? Hopefully this helps. Many blessings, Dear Friend.

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