Transcendental Leadership 2017-12-14T16:24:52+00:00

Transcendental Leadership

The successful social enterprise must have different leadership forms than most ordinary enterprises.

What are Transformational and Transcendental Leadership?

Transformational Leadership includes such concepts as transcendental leadership (Sanders, Hopkins, and Geroy, 2003) and evolutionary leadership (Elgin, 2000; McIntosh, 2012). Transformational  leaders create a significantly  different organizational culture (Burns, 1978). James M. Burns established two concepts: transforming leadership and transactional leadership. According to Burns, the transforming approach creates significant change in the life of people and organizations. It redesigns perceptions and values, and changes expectations and aspirations of employees. Unlike in the transactional approach, it is not based on a “give and take” relationship, but on the leader’s character and ability to create change through example, organizational  vision and goal setting. The transformational leader is himself changed by his followers. The transformational leader is an ethical and moral role model of working towards organizational, staff, client and community benefit.(Langston, n.d.)

Burns theorized that transforming and transactional leadership were mutually exclusive styles. Transactional leaders work in the existing culture. They are concerned with rewarding and/or penalizing employees for their performance. Bernard M. Bass (1985), extended the work of Burns (1978) by explaining how transformational leadership could be measured, as well as how it impacts follower motivation and performance.The extent to which a leader is transformational, is measured first, in terms of his influence on the followers. The followers of such a leader feel trust, admiration, loyalty and respect for the leader and because of the qualities of the transformational leader are willing to work harder than originally expected. These outcomes occur because the transformational leader offers followers something more than just working for self gain; they provide followers with an inspiring mission  and vision and give them an identity. The leader transforms and motivates followers through his or her idealized influence (earlier referred to as charisma), intellectual stimulation and individual consideration. In addition, this leader encourages followers to come up with new and unique ways to challenge the status quo and to alter the environment to support being successful. Finally, in contrast to Burns, Bass suggested that leadership can simultaneously display both transformational and transactional leadership. This leads into the transcendental leader who combines the best qualities of both.

Transcendental leadership has been defined as “dimensions of spirituality [consciousness, moral character, and faith] that incorporate the efficient managerial aspects of transactional theory and the positive charismatic aspects of transformational theory to enhance leader effectiveness” (Sanders, Hopkins, & Geroy, 2003, p. 21).

The transcendental leader motivates, rewards, leads, and empowers  his employees depending on the circumstances.

Another less defined leadership concept is evolutionary leadership. Evolutionary leadership according to Elgin is leadership that facilitates an evolutionary leap or upwards bounce and forestalls a societal crash.Some of the

elements Elgin discusses in evolutionary leadership are:”advocating ‘voluntary simplicity’ or more sustainable and meaningful ways of living; exploring a unifying vision of our universe as a living system as seen by both science and spirituality; and transforming the conversation of democracy by working for the more conscious use of the mass media (as a citizen-activist.”


Burns, J.M. (1978) Leadership. New York: Harper & Row.

Bass, B. M. (1985), Leadership and performance, N.Y. Free Press.

Elgin, D. (2000). Promise ahead: A vision of home and action for humanity’s future. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

McIntosh, S. (2012). Evolution’s purpose: An integral interpretation of the scientific story of our origins. New York, NY: SelectBooks Inc.

Sanders, J. E., Hopkins, W. E., & Geroy, G. D. (2003). From transactional to transcendental: Toward an

integrated theory of leadership. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies 9(4), 21-31.