Transformational Women’s Leadership
The website for Changing Minds.org describes transformational leadership in the standard way, as charismatic leaders with vision and imagination who inspire followers to achieve radical change in an organization or society. Transformational leaders are passionate and exciting and they care about their followers. They make people believe that their ideals can be achieved through their own commitment, enthusiasm and drive. In the process, their followers are also transformed and empowered to do things that they would never have believed possible. This website also points out some of the dangers of transformational leadership in that when such leaders are wrong they can lead “the charge right over the cliff and into a bottomless chasm.” They may also “wear out” their followers with constant demands for high energy and commitment, especially if those at the lower levels really do not desire change (Transformational Leadership 2002-11)
Legacee.com has a very extensive guide to transformational leadership, including information on such leaders in history like Queen Elizabeth I and Alexander the Great, links to other websites and reviews of books on this subject. In history, the character of transformational leaders runs the gamut from Christ and Buddha on one end of the spectrum to Hitler and Attila the Hun on the other, and they can motivate their followers to carry out great good or great evil. About the only commonality all of them have is the ability to inspire followers to change the status quo, for better or worse. In everyday life, parents, teachers and religious leaders may also have a transformational effect on their friends, relatives and communities (A Guide to Transformational Leadership 1996-2011). .
About.com Psychology also has a very general definition of transformational leadership, mentioning the work of James MacGregor Burns and Bernard M. Bass. Both of them described transformational leaders as having a positive effect on society or their organization since they are motivated by a moral vision, contrary to charismatic dictators and military leaders like Hitler who leave only destruction in their wake. Like every other article and website on this subject, this one also mentions that these leaders are creative, inspirational, intellectually challenging and opposed to the status quo.
D.M. Boje (2000) also mentions the theories of Burns and Bass, who criticized the ideas of Nietzsche and Machiavelli about charismatic leaders being amoral, authoritarian and dictatorial: this was not what they meant about transformational leadership. Boje also refers to Max Weber’s concept that modern leadership was bureaucratic and legalistic (transactional) compared to traditional, feudal leadership, which was based on birth and appeals to Divine Right. Within this schema, for example, Marie Antoinette would represent feudal-traditional leadership overthrown in a revolution. Weber regarded charismatic leaders as revolutionaries, prophets and great religious teachers like Christ, Mohammed and Buddha, or heroes and Supermen with a strong Will to Power. Capitalist entrepreneurs and founders of large corporations are also more likely to fall into this category than the managers or large, well-established corporations, who will more likely be in the rational-transactional-bureaucratic mold.
Money-zine also refers to Burns’ concepts of transformational leadership, and his distinction between moral and amoral types of charismatic-transformational leaders. Amoral leaders act from fear, arrogance and narcissism, and are more concerned with their own needs than those of their followers, organization or larger society. In this sense, too, Marie Antoinette has often been portrayed in history as shallow and narcissistic, unconcerned with the common people of France. Justly or unjustly, that is how she has been perceived. For Burns, a truly transformational leader must not simply have vision, charisma and the ability to inspire the masses, but must also have a moral vision, and advocate ethical goals and methods. Ghandhi, Jesus and Martin Luther kind all exemplified this type of moral, transformational leadership. This website also mentions another type of leader — the passive or “laissez faire” model who delegates authority to followers and rarely intervenes in decision-making or setting goals. Of course, one of the dangers in this case is that the organization might simply sink into anarchy or chaos (Transformational Leadership 2004-10).
Boje, D.M. (2000). Transformational Leadership. New Mexico State University.
Cherry, K. (2011). “What is Transformational Leadership?” About.com Psychology.
A Guide to Transformational Leadership (1996-2011). Legacee.com. http://www.legacee.com/Info/Leadership/LeaderResources.html.
Transformational Leadership (2002-11). Changing Minds.org.
Transformational Leadership (2004-10). Money-zine.com.
Bono and Judge (2004) analyzed 26 studies about transactional and transformational leadership and their relationship with the Big Five personality traits. Their three dimensions of transformational leadership included inspirational motivation (charisma), intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration, while they described transactional leaders as passive, controlling employees through rational and economic methods, and upholding fixed norms and standards. They found that of the Big Five traits, only extroversion correlated with transformational leadership, and then just moderately so. Surprisingly, even openness to experience and working hard to achieve goals did not correlate with the transformational style, although these are almost always part of the very definition of transformational leadership.
Hallingen (2003) studied transformational and instructional styles of leadership among teachers and school administrator, with the latter meaning a focus of curriculum and teaching rather than transformation of the school environment. Instructional leaders could also be heroic and charismatic, of course, only with different goals and methods, and in truth both models placed principals at the center of the action. In both cases, leaders may be very limited by budgets, political, social and environmental factors, such as the type of communities where the schools are located, the level of competence of teachers that can render their work ineffective. Transformational-charismatic leaders can also suffer from burnout and indeed inflict it on their followers.
Piccolo and Colquitt (2006) associated transformational leadership with how workers perceived their core job characteristics. Essentially, by inspiration, motivation, and high-quality exchanges with workers, they vastly improved levels of job performance across all key job characteristics such as variety, identity, significance and feedback. Under transformational leaders, followers viewed their jobs and “more challenging and important” (p. 334) and increased their “intrinsic motivation” to achieve goals without external or economic rewards (p. 335).
Avolio et al. (2004) studied 520 nurses in a Singapore public hospital in order to determine whether transformational leadership led to psychological empowerment, and whether structural distance between leaders and followers influenced organizational commitment. They agreed that transformational leadership improved work performance and organizational commitment, inspired loyalty, encouraged creativity and stimulated the intellectual interests of followers. Transformational leaders enabled followers to “reach their full potential” and got them excited and involved in their jobs and the organization (p. 953). In the matter of physical and structural distance between leaders and followers, proximity made for easier communication, and empowerment in dealing with direct superiors is vital to organizational commitment. In Asia, of course, power distance is always higher than in most Western countries and Singapore is a particularly authoritarian society. Lower-level leaders may not be transformative at all, but transactional and bureaucratic, content to run an organization based on daily routines.
A.G. Stone et al. (2004) compared transformational leaders and student leaders. Transformational leaders build commitment to organizational goals, while the servant leader is focused on followers, with the organization a secondary concern. Servant leaders can also be charismatic and dynamic, but their main concern is improving the lives and welfare of the people who work for them. In this sense, servant leaders like Christ and Buddha could be considered a special category or charismatic, transformational leader, even their ultimate goals may well be spiritual, otherworldly and non-material.
Avolio, J. et al. (2004). “Transformational Leadership and Organizational Commitment: Mediating Role of Psychological Empowerment and Moderating Role of Structural Distance.” Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25, pp. 951-68.
Bono, J.E. And T.A. Judge (2004). “Personality and Transformational and Transactional Leadership: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 84, No. 5, pp. 901-10.
Hallingen, P. (2003). “Leading Educational Change: Reflections on the Practice of Instructional and Transformational Leadership.” Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol. 33, No. 3, pp. 329-51.
Piccolo, R.F. And J.A. Colquitt (2006). “Transformational Leadership and Job Behavior: The Mediating Role of Core Job Characteristics.” Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 49, No. 2, pp. 327-340.
Stone, A.G. et al. (2004). “Transformational vs. Servant Leadership: A Difference in Leader Focus.” Leadership and Organization Development Journal, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp. 349-61.
Marie Antoinette as Leader and Symbol of the Old Regime
Marie Antoinette was hardly a liberal or radical in her political views, and even during the French Revolution advocated restoration of the Old Regime and royal absolutism. In these views, she should be described as conservative and traditionalist, as were most of her fellow European monarchs of the era, and she refused to accept the idea that a National Assembly would place any limits on the power of the monarchy. When she attempted to flee France in 1791 with King Louis XVI, her purpose was to join the Austrian and Prussian armies that were preparing to invade France and overturn the Revolution. In this respect, the charges against Marie Antoinette that led to her execution were true: she did conspire with foreign enemies of the country, divulged military plans to them, and committed acts of treason. Of course, from her point-of-view, the revolutionaries and rebels were traitors to the king who deserved to be put to death. On the other land, some of the remarks attributed to her such as “Let them eat cake” she almost certainly never made, although she did become a symbol of the corruption, extravagance and insensitivity of the Old Regime. In her defense, the bankruptcy of the country was not due to her spending on gowns, balls, gambling and diamonds but the result of debts from past wars that could not be repaid. She was hardly responsible for those since the queens of France did not have the political power in these matters. She should be considered a traditional feudal ruler rather than a transformative or transactional one in thee modern sense, who desired to conserve the Old Order as it was rather than bring about change.
In 1770 when she married the future king of France, Marie Antoinette was fourteen years old, and the youngest of the sixteen children of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. She could not speak French when she entered into this arranged marriage, and had never seen her husband until two days before the wedding. She had no real education of any kind beyond learning to play the hard and clavichord, although unlike Louis XVI she had a reputation for being lively and vivacious (Plain, 2002, p. 12). When Louis XV died of smallpox in 1774, Louis and Marie Antoinette were found crying and kneeling in prayer, and Louis said “Oh God, oh God, protect us. We are too young to reign!” (Plain, p. 13). In no sense could she be considered a “feminist campaigner” but she did represent “the contradictions in the social, political, and gender systems of her day” (Goodman, 2003, p. 2). In the popular press and pamphlets, she was often attacked as symbolizing everything that was rotten with the Old Regime, although from the day she crossed into France in 1770 her main function was to produce a male heir to the throne. Given the physical and sexual problems of Louis XVI, she was not able to accomplish this for eight years, and until then her position was hardly secure. By that point, doubts about “the queen’s sexuality and fidelity were firmly planted in the public mind,” and in thus era of rising nationalism she was always viewed with suspicion as a “foreign queen” (Goodman, p. 3). For twenty years, up the beginning of the Revolution in 1789, she lived in an isolated, secretive world of Versailles in an age that was demanding more openness and accountability from governments,” and this secrecy “became a site for the play of the political and the erotic imagination” Goodman, p. 6).
Marie Antoinette was not the cause of the bankruptcy of France with her out of control office, for the country was already bankrupt when she and Louis XVI were crowned in 1775. Massive debts incurred from the Seven Years War (1755-63) and supporting the American Revolution after 1777 were the main problem and these could not be repaid without taxing the church and nobility — neither of which was willing to pay any taxes. This was also a period of bad harvests, famine, and massive discontent among the peasants and urban workers. On the day of their coronation, there were bread riots all over the country with hungry people looting grain warehouses and lynching merchants. When the leaders of these riots were hanged, they proclaimed “We die for the people!” (Plain, p. 19). Marie Antoinette actually cried after hearing about this, and almost certainly said that if the people had no bread then ‘Let the eat cake’ — or even worse ‘Let the eat grass’. Indeed, she was appalled when she heard reports of rumors in the popular press that she had made such remarks, all of which made were widely hated by the common people of France. As the famine dragged on for twenty years and the ministers of Louis XVI seemed unable to fix the country’s finances, she did become known as “Madame Deficit,” and she certainly did enjoy jewelry, masked balls, horse racing, cards and the company of young nobles, who gambled millions every night while the people lived in hunger and misery (Plain, p. 22).
Given the social, political and economic conditions in the country, Marie Antoinette’s attempts to be fashionable and break with some of the traditions of the court of Versailles always seemed to fall flat with the common people. For example, she would dress in the costume of a shepherdess while sporting “a mile-high hairdoâ€¦obviously ill suited to the tending of livestock” (Weber, 2007, p. 1). Her reputation was that of a shallow, frivolous and immodest queen who was mostly interested in furs, diamonds and expensive gowns — and sometimes even wore male clothing and perhaps had lesbian affairs. Although many nobles and wealthy bourgeois followed her lead in fashion, others loathed her for “overstepping the bounds of her queenly station, eclipsing her husband as the center of her subjects’ attention” (Weber, p. 6). Nor could she ever escape her reputation of wasting money on endless banquets, parties and dances while the people went hungry.
At the time of her imprisonment and execution, Marie Antoinette had very few sympathizers or supporters except for her lover Count Fersen, who attempted to bribe the Revolutionary government to obtain her release. She also lied to the authorities who interrogated her in prison, stating that she was not involved in any type of plots or conspiracies with foreign powers, especially her brother Leopold II, the emperor of Austria. Her main response to these charges was that she simply followed king’s orders and “depict herself as a subservient woman who respected the absolute superiority of her husband’s decisions” (Lever, 2000, p. 294). In reality, she never accepted the legitimacy of the Revolution or of republican and democratic ideas, and thought that whoever rebelled against the monarchy should be put to death. She was accused of treason, depleting the national treasury to pay for her extravagances, conspiring with foreign powers and committing incest with her son. This latter charge was completely false, but it was long a subject of popular gossip and innuendo, even of obscene drawings and graffiti painted on the walls of her prison (Lever, p. 285). At her trial, she made an appeal to all the mothers of France against the charge of incest, although naturally she made no admission of leaking the military plans of France to the Austrians and Prussians, or to her private views that the absolute monarchy must be restored (Lever, p. 302).
Neither she nor Louis XVI recognized the right of the national Assembly to exist, and had their counterrevolution been successful, its members would have been forced to disperse or be executed. All those among the common people who refused to disarm and turn in their weapons would have suffered the same fate. In 1791, she also wrote in a secret memorandum that “religion will be one of the key points to exploit,” for she and Louis did not agree with the new Civil Constitution of the Clergy that required priests to take an oath of loyalty to the Revolutionary state (Price, 2004, p. 194). At most, Louis and Marie Antoinette would have agreed to calling another Estates General that would deal will the country’s bankruptcy, but its members would vote along the lines of the three feudal orders of Nobles, Clergy and Commoners rather than as individual representatives of the people. They were well-aware that the country’s fiscal problems were extreme, and that church property might have to be confiscated and taxes raised on the nobility to repay the debt, but their main goal was always to “return the royal prerogative” (Price, p. 200).
Marie Antoinette went to the guillotine in 1793 no longer as a queen, but simply an ordinary Citizen like the rest of her former subjects. This was a truly radical and transformative idea in history, and one that to which she was absolutely opposed. She was hostile to the new republic and had committed treason against it, but by background and upbringing she was simply unprepared to comprehend or accept the changes that were occurring in the modern world — and many of her successors were no different. Although she had neither wanted nor intended it, for most of her reign she evoked widespread hatred from both nobles and commoners for a variety of reasons, including those over which she had no control at all, like the country’s massive debt and deficits. Almost certainly she would never have wished to be remembered in history for saying that if the people had no bread then they could eat cake (or grass), this is how both contemporaries and future generations have remembered her.
Goodman, D., ed. (2003). Marie Antoinette: Writings on the Body of a Queen. Routledge.
Lever, E. (2000). The Last Queen of France. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.
Plain, N. (2002). Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the French Revolution. Marshall Cavendish.
Price, M. (2004). The Road from Versailles: Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the Fall of the French Monarchy. NY: St. Martin’s.
Weber, C. (2007). Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. Picador
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