The concept of leadership has gained a large amount of attention in recent years. This paper explores the relationships between transformational leadership and organizational effectiveness in the field of recreational sport and leisure. First, it reviews a discussion on the problem of organizational leadership from the perspective of the transactional- transformational model, particularly the arguments of researchers such as Burns and Bass. It examines the components of transformational leadership, and then investigates several approaches to the conceptualization and measurement of organizational effectiveness. Finally, the controversy concerning the impact of transformational leadership upon organizational effectiveness is discussed, and an argument is made that greater transformational leadership seems to be at least indirectly related to a higher degree of organizational effectiveness.

Transformational Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness in Recreational Sports/Fitness Programs

Leadership has drawn great attention from scholars in various fields in recent years. Yukl (1989) wrote that “the study of leadership has been an important and central part of the literature of management and organization behavior for several decades” (p. 251). Paton (1987), too, realized that leadership has become the most popular subject within the field of sports management. Weese (1994) furthermore advised that some 7,500 citations on leadership appear in Bass and Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership (1990). In an article on sports management and leadership, Sourcie (1994) noted that quite a few doctoral dissertations focus on “managerial leadership in sport organizations”. Earlier, Sourcie (1982) had estimated that nearly 25 studies on leadership were completed between 1969 and 1979, as reported in Dissertation Abstracts International, while the same source shows that 30 additional doctoral researchers employed leadership as the primary dependent variable of dissertation research between 1979 and 1989 (p. 6).

There is great controversy over the definition of leadership and thus over approaches to studying leadership (Yukl, 1989). The present authors, however, focus exclusively on the transactional-transformational leadership model and the relationship between transformational leadership and organization effectiveness. The paper looks first at definitions of transactional and transformational leadership and the components of transformational leadership. It then reviews discussions of the transactional-transformational leadership model, particularly the differences between and relationships shared by the concepts of transactional and transformational leadership. In addition, it describes the four elements of transformational leadership.

The paper also investigates existing studies of organizational effectiveness and looks at scholars’ varying approaches to organizational effectiveness. Following this, it discusses the relationships between transformational leadership and organizational effectiveness. Finally, through a review of related literature from the field of recreational sports and fitness programs, the authors examine relationships between transformational leadership and organizational effectiveness.

The Transactional-Transformational Leadership Model

Working from Burns’s earlier efforts (1978), Bass (1985) elaborated the transactional-transformational model. As Yukl (1989) wrote, Bass offered a more thoroughly detailed theory of transformational leadership that further differentiated transformational from transactional leadership. Bass viewed transformational leadership from the perspective of leaders’ influence on subordinates. Influenced by transformational leaders, subordinates become motivated to surpass original expectations (Yukl, 1989). Bass argued that transactional leadership and transformational leadership are “distinct dimensions rather than opposite ends of one continuum” (Doherty & Danylchuk, 1996) Or, as Yukl (1989) and Weese (1994) wrote, while transactional leadership and transformational leadership are closely related parts of leadership, they remain distinct.

In addition, Bass viewed transformational leadership as an augmentation and extension of transactional leadership. In his understanding, “[A]ll leaders are transactional, to some extent, exchanging rewards for performance, but some leaders are also transformational, going beyond simple leader-subordinate exchange relations” (Doherty & Danylchuk, 1996, p. 294). Studies by other researchers support Bass’s argument both empirically and theoretically, according to Doherty and Danylchuk (1996).

In his discussion of transformational leadership among the coaches of sports teams, Armstrong (2001) laid out four main characteristics of transformational leadership: (a) ethical behavior, (b) shared vision and shared goals, (c) performance improvement through charismatic leadership, and (d) leadership by example (p. 44–45). Armstrong’s framework is a simplified version of the components of transformational leadership provided by Bass (1985), who identified those as intellectual stimulation, individual consideration, inspirational leadership, and idealized influence (Doherty & Danylchuk, 1996; Weese, 1994). Intellectual stimulation refers to a leader’s capability to stimulate followers to become curious and creative about thinking and problem solving (Doherty & Danylchuk, 1996; Weese, 1994). Individual consideration describes the relationship between leader and follower in terms of two dimensions, developmental orientation and individual orientation (Doherty & Danylchuk, 1996). A developmental orientation exists when leaders “assign tasks that will enhance an individual’s potential, abilities, and motivation” (Doherty & Danylchuk, 1996, p. 295). An individual orientation exists when a leader stresses “mutual understanding and familiarity via one-on-one relations and two-way communication” (Doherty & Danylchuk, 1996, p. 295).

Inspirational leadership refers to the transformational leader’s inspiration and encouragement of subordinates, which creates emotional attachment to the leader and greater identification with his or her vision for organizational goals (Doherty & Danylchuk, 1996; Weese, 1994). The final element is idealized influence, which is closely related to charisma (Weese, 1994). Doherty and Danylchuk (1996) view idealized influence as “the behavioral counterpart to charisma” (p. 295), with the leader’s traits promoting commitment among followers in order to tap their full potential (Doherty & Danylchuk, 1996; Weese, 1994).

Organizational Effectiveness

Effective leadership has a positive impact on behavior within organizations, according to many leadership researchers; transformational leadership’s role in improving many factors of organizations is especially pronounced (Weese, 1994). The effectiveness of behavior within organizations—the effectiveness of their performance—is known as organizational effectiveness.

The concept of effectiveness is of great importance to an understanding of organizational behavior (Chelladurai & Haggerty, 1991). However, organizational effectiveness is a term that is complicated, controversial, and difficult to conceptualize (Chelladurai, 1987). It is little wonder there are several different approaches to measuring and studying organizational effectiveness. As Sourcie (1994) mentioned briefly, Chelladurai and Haggerty (1991) describe four ways to measure organizational effectiveness; these methods are the goal approach, system resource approach, process approach, and multiple constituency approach.

The goal approach is the most widely used, according to Weese (1997). It assesses the effectiveness of an organization in terms of its success in realizing its goals (Pratt & Eitzen, 1989). Regarded as the “most logical approach” to studying organizational effectiveness (Chelladurai and Haggerty, 1991, p. 127), the goal approach nevertheless has its weaknesses. Most obvious is the reality that an organization may have numerous goals that may conflict with one another (Weese, 1997; Pratt & Eitzen, 1989). In addition, an organization’s goals may shift over time, especially its short-term operative goals (Pratt & Eitzen, 1989). Goal shifts may result from an organization’s interactions with its environment, from internal changes, or from external pressures. When an organization’s goals are “unclear, unstable, and conflicting with each other” (Chelladurai & Haggerty, 1991, p. 127), it becomes very difficult to measure organizational effectiveness using the goal approach.

The third approach is the process approach, which focuses on organizational functioning and integration (Chelladurai & Haggerty, 1991). Under this approach, an organization’s effectiveness is viewed in terms of the smoothness and efficiency of its internal processes and general operation (Sourcie, 1994). Weese (1997) pointed out that effective operations of an organization do not necessarily result in “heightened organizational effectiveness,” because the sum of efficient components may not lead to an efficient whole (p. 267). Thus the process approach for measuring organizational effectiveness is also not without limitations.

In light of the limitations and disadvantages associated with these three approaches, a fourth, the multiple-constituency approach, was also proposed (Weese, 1997). Under the multiple-constituency approach, the opinions of the various constituent groups of an organization are considered in determining the effectiveness of the organization (Sourcie, 1994; Weese, 1997). Chelladurai and Haggerty (1991) discussed the differences between the multiple constituency approach and the earlier approaches. They noted that the former incorporates the other three within one model that “envisions the differential evaluation of an organization by different constituents on one or more dimensions of effectiveness. . . . [such as] productivity, resource acquisition, or internal processes.”

Organizational effectiveness is ambiguous in conceptualization and difficult to measure, due to the fact that it involves multiple dimensions, for example goals, processes, and resources (Chelladurai & Haggerty, 1991). To date, the multiple constituency model, in creating a synthesis of the earlier goal approach, process approach, and system resource approach, appears to best represent the multiplicity of organizational effectiveness.

Relation to Organizational Effectiveness

Efforts have been made to study the relationship between leadership (particularly transformational leadership) and organizational effectiveness. There is controversy, however, over whether transformational leadership has a positive impact on organizational effectiveness. For example, Weese’s (1996) study of the relationships among transformational leadership, organizational culture, and organizational effectiveness showed no significant relationship between transformational leadership and organizational effectiveness. Similarly, Weese (1996) and Lim and Cromartie (2001) found transformational leadership not to relate significantly to organizational effectiveness. They suggested that subordinates play an important role in an organization’s effectiveness.

Interestingly, in an earlier article, Weese (1994) pointed out that many who have studied leadership have found “convincing evidence” for leadership’s importance to the “success and survival” of an organization. He noted that transformational leaders, especially, “have a positive impact on employee satisfaction, productivity, and organizational effectiveness” (Weese, 1994, p. 188).

In addition, the studies by Weese (1996) and Lim and Cromartie (2001) recognized that a significant relationship exists between transformational leadership and organizational culture, while rejecting the argument that transformational leadership has an impact on organizational effectiveness. However, both studies also recognized that organizational culture has great influence on organizational effectiveness (Lim and Cromartie, 2001; Weese, 1996). The implication is that transformational leadership and organizational effectiveness do have an indirect relationship.


Leadership is an important but controversial concept in understanding organizational behavior. Burns (1978) and Bass (1985) provided a theoretical framework for two aspects of leadership, the transactional and the transformational leadership paradigms. Organizational effectiveness is no less controversial than leadership, and there are four approaches to measure and study it. The most comprehensive approach developed to date appears to be the integrated multiple constituency approach.

While the existing studies of relationships between transformational leadership and organizational effectiveness are controversial as well, it seems that leadership has at least an indirect impact on organizational effectiveness. Further empirical research and theoretical exploration needs to be conducted in order to gain better understanding of the topic.


Armstrong, S. (2001). Are you a “transformational” coach? Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 72(3), 44-47.

Bass, B. M. (1985). Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations. New York: Free Press.

Bass, B. M. (1990). Bass and Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research and Managerial Applications. New York: Free Press.

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

Chelladurai, P. (1987). Multidimensionality and multiple perspectives of organizational effectiveness. Journal of Sport Management, 1(1), 37-47.

Chelladurai, P., & Haggerty, T.R. (1991). Measures of organizational effectiveness of Canadian national sport organizations. Canadian Journal of Sport Sciences, 16(2), 126-133.

Doherty, A. J., & Danylchuk, K.E. (1996). Transformational and transactional leadership in interuniversity athletics management. Journal of Sport Management, 10(3), 292-309.

Ghorpade, T. (1970). Study of organizational effectiveness: Two prevailing viewpoints. Pacific Sociological Review, 13, 31-40.

Lim, J. Y., & Cromartie, F. (2001). Transformational leadership, organizational culture and organizational effectiveness in sport organizations. The Sport Journal, 4(2), 111-169.

Paton, G. (1987). Sport management research: What progress has been made? Journal of Sport Management, 1, 25-31.

Pratt, S. R., & Eitzen, D. S. (1989). Contrasting leadership styles and organizational effectiveness: the case of athletic teams. Social Science Quarterly, 70(2), 311-322.

Sourcie, D. (1982). Management Theory and Practice. In E.F. Zeigler (Ed.), Physical Education and Sport: An Introduction. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger.

Sourcie, D. (1994). Effective managerial leadership in sport organizations. Journal of Sport Management, 8(1), 1-13.

Weese, W. J. (1994). A leadership discussion with Dr. Bernard Bass. Journal of Sport Management, 8(3), 176-189.

Weese, W. J. (1996). Do leadership and organizational culture really matter? Journal of Sport Management, 10(2), 197-206.

Weese, W. J. (1997). The development of an instrument to measure effectiveness in campus recreation programs. Journal of Sport Management, 11(3), 263-274.

Yuchtman, E., & Stanley, S.(1967). A systematic resource approach to organizational effectiveness. American Sociological Review, 32, 891-903.

Yukl, G. (1989b). Managerial leadership: a review of theory and research. Journal of Management, 15(2), 251-289.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email