Transformational Leaders or Paragon Leaders?

Motivation by Deification or Too Heavy Lies the Mantle?

As the list of “saintly” attributes required by “real leaders” has grown, it seems to become more daunting for mere mortals to achieve and practice all the qualities successful leaders are said to have or be needed for success. But, in deifying and mythologizing leadership, are we helping motivate new leaders or improving current ones? Or, are we making the leadership “mantle” too heavy, and the “required” behaviors too demanding, even saintly, for mere mortals?

Partial list of exemplary leadership characteristics selected recently by public administration graduate students at a major university

• Accepts constructive criticism
• Amplifies values and beliefs and frames around organization’s mission
• Behaves ethically
• Builds morale, and motivates others
• Communicates openly and honestly between themselves and others
• Communicates something bigger than the task at hand
• Communicates the vision inspirationally
• Competent
• Does not let personal beliefs influence the work environment
• Emotionally intelligent
• Empathetic with employee values, including: fairness, justice, courtesy, cooperation, upholding democratic principles, and knowing right from wrong.
• Establishes commonality of purpose and community and strives towards a unified vision
• Fair-minded
• Focused on organizational as opposed to individual goals
• Gives credit where credit is due
• Honest
• Inspirational
• Intelligent
• Leads by example
• Lives by values
• Possesses, and acts with strong code of ethics
• Role model
• Shares information
• Supportive
[A partial list]

Are the layers in the leadership “how-to manuals” getting too thick?

As the partial list of exemplary leadership characteristics aggregated from a recent graduate seminar points out, daunting expectations are placed on today’s leaders.

Next: Accretion of “saintly” attributes: conclusions, consequences and new directions

Suggested citation:

Connors, T. D. (2019). Transformational leaders or paragon leaders? In Transformational organizations: NPO crossroads. Retrieved from BelleAire Press, LLC:

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