Mahama's questionable transformational skills

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 Source: Badu, K

The objective of this article is to assess and discuss the much touted effective transformational leadership qualities of President Mahama in impacting transformational change, vis-à-vis socio-economic standards of living of Ghanaians.

Leadership can be considered to be the personal qualities, behaviours, styles and decisions adopted by the leader. In other words, it concerns how the leader carries out his/her role. Hence while the role of leader can be described in a job description, leadership is not so easily pinned down (Waldman and Yammarino (1999).

Waldman and Yammarino observe that early investigations, which focused on the personal characteristics or the behaviours of individuals who emerge as leaders, were followed by those that considered the influence of situational factors of leadership behaviour.

For example, most recent research interest has centered on relationships between leaders and followers, with some experts on the topic stressing the need to study followership. This has been argued as important, not so much because all leaders are also followers, but also because modern notions of leadership place considerable emphasis on the power and importance of followers in ultimately legitimizing and enabling leadership.

Interestingly, leadership, change and management scholars observe that transformational leaders act as role models, motivate, provide meaning, optimism, enthusiasm, strategic thinking and stimulate the intelligence of their subordinates(Bass, 1985).

Other experts, however, postulate that although each leadership style has its own merits and de-merits; transformational leadership draws much attention since it contributes to firm innovation, organisational learning, and creativity skills (De Jong and Den Hartog, 2007).

Moreover, some scholars have examined transformational leadership in various disciplines,(Yammarino and Bass 1990). Some experts, nonetheless, define transformational leadership in terms of idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration (Nemanich and Keller, 2007).

Interestingly, some experts explain the first component, idealized influence, as charisma (Schepers et al, 2005). While a few scholars mentioned the first two, idealized influence and inspirational motivation as charisma (Kark et al., 2003).

Thus, transformational leaders exhibit idealised influence in their quest to effect transformational change (Kark et al., 2003).

It should however be noted that idealised influence portrays leaders as most respectful, reliable and meritorious, and shows the characteristics of setting vision and articulating it to accomplish, and describes leaders’ risk sharing with their followers in line with ethical principles (Bass et al., 2003).

Moreover, inspirational motivation explains how transformational leaders encourage their subordinates to achieve vision through creating individual and team spirit (Bass et al., 2003).

While the component, intellectual stimulation, explicates how transformational leaders promote their subordinates innovative and creative skills by solving problems entirely in new ways without criticizing them for mistakes (Bass et al., 2003).

According to Self and Schraeder, (2009), the first step in the process of implementing a transformational change initiative is creating readiness for the change. They stressed further that the basic readiness lies in Lewin’s (1947) concept of unfreezing or getting organizational members to relinquish, both physically and psychologically, of the current ways of doing things within the organization.

Self and Schraeder maintained that the leadership must however endeavour to provide evidence that the current ways of doing things are Obsolescent and then make the needed changes.

Unfortunately, however, President Mahama’s readiness to embark on transformational change became questionable when he turned away from NDC’s party pledge to resort to ‘lean’ government and went ahead and appointed two deputy Ministers each in the Energy & Petroleum, Food & Agric, Education, Information and Gender, Children & Social Protection ministries (See: Myjoyonline.com/Ghanaweb.com, 28/03/2013).

Another approach to creating readiness (as well as managing the transformational change implementation process) was proposed by Doherty and Horn (2005).

Doherty and Horn propounded a number of methods, among others, education and communication, participation and involvement, facilitation and support, and even explicit and implicit coercion.

Unfortunately, despite some appointees lackadaisical approach to their duties, President Mahama has nonetheless been endorsing the usual Ghanaian mantra: ‘hire to retire’ (stay in the post regardless of abysmal performances).

Nevertheless, a transformational leader should be able to ensure that his/her subordinates are toeing the line. And, if possible must resort to ‘hire to fire’ (dismissal upon poor performances).

Schein (1995) building on Lewin’s force field analysis, emphasised that the stability of human behaviour is based on "quasi- stationary equilibriums" supported by a large force field of driving and restraining forces.

Schein stressed that for transformational change to occur; this force field has to be modified under complex psychological conditions because, as often noted, just adding a driving force toward transformational change spawns an immediate counterforce to maintain the equilibrium.

According to Schein, this observation explains the important insight that the equilibrium could more easily be moved if one could remove restraining forces since usually there are already driving forces in the system.

Schein stresses further that restraining forces are difficult to reach, because they are often personal psychological defences or group norms embedded in the organisational culture.

Regrettably, however, one of the biggest restraining forces in President Mahama’s transformational change process is dubious judgment debt payments. Giving gargantuan sums of money belonging to the nation to people who have no entitlement would nonetheless hamper any transformational change process.

In a nutshell, I view Kurt Lewin’s unfreeze phase in transformational change process, as analogous to mountain climbing.

For instance, once the climbing team have been motivated and managed to get to the summit, then there is another arduous task of negotiating descent.

The next stage in transformational change process-changing/moving is basically to alter the behaviours of subordinates (Kotter (1996).

As noted by Schein(1995), human change, whether at the individual or group level, is a profound psychological dynamic process that involved painful unlearning without loss of ego, identity and difficult relearning as one cognitively attempts to restructure one's thoughts, perceptions, feelings, and attitudes.

On completion of the ‘unfreeze and ‘moving phases, ‘refreeze phase then begins.

Refreezing is the final stage where new behaviour becomes habitual, which includes developing a new self-concept & identity and establishing new interpersonal relationships (Kotter, 1996).

In other words, this is the stage where the leader exhibits all his/her leadership qualities in the transformational change process.

Apparently, there is a growing consensus that successful implementation of transformational change requires an emphasis on both leadership (the social/emotional/relational aspects of change) and management (the technical/instrumental/task aspects of change ) Starke et al., (2011).

Gill, (2003), however, notes that if the transformational change was to be successful, it will require a leader with effective transformational leadership skills.


Due to lack of space, interested parties should please contact me for referencing materials on: k.badu2011@gmail.com, many thanks for reading.

Columnist: Badu, K