Theses Doctoral

A Case Study Exploring Application and Development of Transformational Leadership in Chief Executive Officers of Professional Services Businesses

Bharwaney, Roshan

Transformational leaders in professional services businesses can help develop and inspire people and organizations to overcome disruption and succeed. At the same time, numerous pressures on leaders, such as quarterly financial reporting and the shift from long-term engagements to project-based work, may cause leaders to focus on the transactional and short term. Transformational leadership in this study is defined as leadership that goes beyond exchange of rewards for achieved goals and places an emphasis on the needs and values of followers, thereby fostering transformation in people and organizations (Northouse, 2018). This study addresses how CEOs of professional services businesses are transformational with their clients and teams in a complex and challenging business environment that is steeped in transactional activities.

The purpose of this research was to study CEOs of professional services businesses whose leadership styles have been identified by company executives as transformational. This study was carried out in order to understand if and how the nominated CEOs perceived that they demonstrated transformational leadership in complex and challenging work environments.

This case study encompassed 10 CEOs of professional services businesses and 18 team members. Client satisfaction survey data were also analyzed to incorporate client perspectives. A major finding of this study was that a strong majority (82%) of CEOs and their team members reported that the most predominant transformational leadership activities in which the CEOs engaged were idealized influence, which consists of building trust and acting with integrity, and individualized consideration, which consists of listening carefully to individual needs, acting as coach or advisor, and treating others in unique and caring ways (Bass & Avolio, 1997). All CEOs (100%) learned to be transformational largely through informal means by drawing on past experiences. A majority (64%) of participants indicated that team members facilitated their transformational work, while 50% described lack of teamwork and organizational processes as impeding their transformational work.

A key recommendation emanating from this study is that CEOs and those aspiring to become CEOs of professional services businesses engage in idealized influence and individualized consideration activities if they seek to be transformational.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Volpe, Marie
Marsick, Victoria J.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 21, 2020