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  1. Bert Spector

  1. International Business and Strategy,
    D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University, Boston, MA,
    USA
  1. Bert Spector, International Business and
    Strategy, D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University, 350
    Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115, USA. Email:
    b.spector{at}neu.edu

Abstract

Transformational leadership has undergone a critical reassessment. Rather than
examining the state of the science or the conceptual confusion and
contradictions inherent in the ongoing stream of transformational leadership
research, this article adopts an historical perspective, looking back on the
founding era of this influential concept. In particular, the article evaluates
the use of Lee Iacocca, who became the personification of the transformational
leadership ideal. While placing Iacocca’s appeal into a particular
socio-historical context, the article offers a critical weighing of that devise.
This use of Iacocca as a personification and embodiment of the transformational
leadership construct was, at best, a highly romanticized take on an individual.
At worse, the use of Iacocca was misleading and disingenuous. The article
concludes that two core flaws of transformational
leadership—over-attribution and romanticizing traditional leadership
behaviors—were present from the inception.

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Flawed from the "Get-Go": Lee Iacocca and the origins of transformational leadership