Transformational Leaders or Paragon Leaders?

A New Perspective on Saint Leadership from an Advocatus Diabolic?

As we begin to speak of leaders as saints, the term “devil’s advocate,” comes to mind and may, in fact, be relevant.

During the process of reviewing the merits of those being recommended for sainthood, the Roman Catholic Church balanced the judgments by appointing an official who approached and presented the evidence about the candidate more skeptically. Where were the holes in the evidence? Were any of the alleged miracles fraudulent?

I “believe” deeply in the merits of most of the claims made for and about leadership. However, I also believe there is useful truth to be found in challenging – pushing back, to use current parlance – against some assumptions and “common knowledge” associated with the “good book” teachings of leadership. Therefore, accept that this devil’s advocate may take some positions –or alternative positions — not necessarily held in person in order to engage readers in the discussion and clarification process.

Change Leadership: A multi-dimensional construct

A construct is an abstract hypothetical or theoretical variable that is conceptualized (“constructed”), modeled or articulated as a tool to help explain some phenomenon of interest to researchers as the focus of their investigations (Kerlinger, quoted in Schriesheim et al., 1993). Management research frequently measures constructs to explore and better understand relationships among and between a variety of organizational phenomena (Schriesheim et al., 1993). Constructs serve as the fundamental means through which scientific observations can be ordered and organized. Clearly, understanding and measuring constructs is vital to the advancement of any scientific discipline, e.g., management practice research focused on improving organizational performance by charitable organizations.

Successful leader assessment

Our understanding and appreciation of Leadership is sharpened when we remember the multi-dimensionality of this vital construct. As Dr. Martin Heesacker, Professor of Psychology at the University of Florida points out, some characteristics of leadership are universal and some are situational. This is a straightforward but also profound reality.

Leadership behaviors, attributes, and core values are not all appropriate at the same time. In fact, depending on the situation, leadership traits can actually contradict or undermine each other. Certain combinations “work” because they happen to be – or are deliberately employed – in the right situation (M. Heesacker, personal communication, May 20, 2015). Typically, in the popular press, it is the success stories that get the most coverage and exposure.

In addition to having a broad and/or deep range of relevant change leadership competencies, successful leaders (particularly multi-situational leaders) are skilled at assessing situations to determine the overall change needs, and responding with the appropriate, situation-specific leadership tools, behaviors, and methods.

In short, such leaders evaluate the situation to better understand the change(s) needed and the situation. Then using self-awareness and understanding, they adapt from their personal repertoire the behaviors, methods, and competencies that when used collaboratively and complementarily will produce the intended outcomes and results.

That successful assessment strategy may suggest the basis for a new leadership model: viewing leadership from a research point of view.

Next: Considering the variables

Suggested citation:

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

© Copyright 2019 BelleAire Press, LLC

In research, the independent variable typically influences or causes the effects or outcomes that are the subject of the study. Dependent variables are typically the results or outcomes of the influences on them by independent variables.

Typically, leadership is profiled as the independent variable, the often idealized package of behaviors, traits, attributes and competencies that bring about the desired – or hoped for – outcomes. Seen from a research perspective, insights can be gained if we transpose the independent and dependent variables in the “leadership research model.”

When we transpose Change to now serve as the independent variable acting on the dependent leadership variables, the new perspective suggests that successful leadership – including its attributes, characteristics and competencies – can be a result of, driven by, or influenced by the nature and situation of the change.

Additional research focused on leadership as the dependent variable in a change equation should be considered. A new, multi-dimensional model should be explored that would help more accurately identify and profile the varying competency/attribute/characteristics constellations that present themselves when change is the independent variable driving or influencing leadership.

Next: PEP, An inclusive model for change management that focuses on the realities and variables of Purpose and Environment, in addition to Person

Suggested citation:

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

© Copyright 2019 BelleAire Press, LLC