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The Application of Transformational Leadership in the UAE Research Paper

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Updated: Jan 15th, 2020


Leadership is a key function of management. At the workplace, employees must exhibit a certain degree of leadership quality for the success of the organization. Managers in any organization are charged with the responsibility of leading the different employees.

Researchers have stated that managers have always made the mistake of making automatic employee follow-ups when they get a position of leadership. However, the truth is that a management position indicates the title of the individual. The leadership qualities in management are acquired.

According to Northouse (2001), a leader is any individual who is capable of influencing another individual or groups of individuals into achieving a common goal.

Effective leadership entails influencing the associates and subordinates in a positive way. The path that these leaders choose in an organization should lead to the achievement of organizational goals.

Many types of leadership styles have been described. One of the most common styles is transformational leadership. Many researchers have focused on this form of leadership and its application in some of the international organizations.

According to Schuh, Zhang, and Tian (2013), transformational leadership approach is important in management. It facilitates the modeling of exceptional leaders in organizations.

This paper looks at transformational leadership approach in Wal-Mart as an international organization. It provides examples of how this form of leadership has been beneficial.

The paper also looks the application of transformational leadership in the UAE based on the analysis of the data obtained from this society.

Literature Review

Several studies have been done on transformational leadership. Most of these studies have focused on the international organizations. Companies such as Microsoft, Starbucks, and McDonalds have had their share of transformational leaders.

Some of the researchers that described transformational leadership include Northouse (2001). He states that transformational leadership is the process of changing and transforming individuals and organizations (Northouse, 2001).

This means that transformational leadership is the process of getting people adopt and/or accept change in an organizational setting in an attempt to improve their performance through effective leadership (Northouse, 2001).

A transformational leader should lead to an improvement in performance of a portfolio or the organization in which he or she is stationed. The growth of international trade and internationalization of organizations have led to increased significance of this form of leadership.

Examples of organizations that have had transformational leaders include Microsoft, Apple Computer Company, Tesco, and Salisbury. These organizations have had a significant success during the periods that these leaders were in office.

Another organization that is also a point of focus in this report is Wal-Mart. The transformational leader that contributed to the growth of the organization is Sam Walton who is also the company’s founder (Walton, & Huey, 1996).

According to Northouse (2001), a transformational leader should be able to lobby the associates towards the intended organizational direction. Walton and Huey (1996) visited many of the stores that operate under Wal-Mart during the period he was in-charge.

This move was seen as a way of ensuring that the associates were aware of the appreciation that he had on their contributions.

In the autobiography that he wrote, some of the rules of success that he gave include the appreciation of associates and giving praise to the contributions that they put into the organization (Walton, & Huey, 1996).

According to Northouse (2001), effective transformational leadership is characterized by four factors, which are otherwise referred to as the “Four I’s”. These four I’s include individual consideration, intellectual stimulation, idealized influence, and inspirational motivation (Northouse, 2001).

Idealized influence entails having the manager as a role model for the other employees. This type of manager can be entrusted with most issues that affect employees. He or she is said to be a good decision maker in the organizational setting.

Inspirational motivation is a characteristic that allows managers to motivate employees and other stakeholders in an organization to contribute positively to the organizational goals and objectives (Walton, & Huey, 1996).

Inspirational motivation has been associated with increased performance of organizations that are run by managers with this characteristic. Intellectual stimulation as the third characteristic of transformational leaders is demonstrated when managers and leaders encourage innovation and creativity at their workstations.

They encourage workers to challenge the traditional beliefs that may be existent in an organization (Northouse, 2001). This characteristic leads to the organization adopting new ways of doing things most of which are associated with significant financial and operational success.

Individual consideration is a characteristic of transformational leaders. It entails having managers who are considerate to the plight of every employee (Northouse, 2001).

These types of leaders individualize the services they provide to their employees, thus allowing them to attain the individual goals that they set (Northouse, 2001).

The individualized treatment of employees ensures that the leader is able to impart knowledge and skills that are required to achieve organizational goals and objectives.

It also allows employees to provide feedback on their performance and the areas that they would like to see changes in the organization. Transformational leadership leads to transformation within organizations and societal systems. This form of leadership promotes the creation of positive changes in organizations.

The concept of transformational leadership was initially applied in politics where James McGregor Burns (1978) analyzed the organization of political leaders. The term is currently applied in organizational behavior, with many researchers in organizational psychology field defining and furthering knowledge on the same.

Burns (1978) stated that transforming leadership is a process in which “leaders and followers help each other to advance to a higher level of morale and motivation” (p. 24).

He also revealed that unlike transactional leadership that has a give-and-take structure, transformational leadership concentrates on the characteristics of employees to bring about change in the organization (Burns, 1978).

Another researcher who did a significant work on transformational leadership as a concept is Bernard Bass (1985). Bass (1985) explained the psychological characteristics of transformational and transactional leadership concepts in organizational behavior.

The extent to which a leader is able to influence his or her employees to follow him is used as a measure of the degree of transformation that a leader is capable of in any organization.

One way in which the work of Bass (1985) was different from that of Burns (1978) is that the former suggested that transformational leadership might exist in concert with transactional leadership qualities in some leaders.

After many years of research since the works of the above researchers, subsequent researchers have concluded that both forms of leadership can lead to positive outcomes when applied in an organization (Effelsberg, Solga, & Gurt, 2014). Several instruments have been used in research pertaining to the forms of leadership.

The main tool that is used is the questionnaire. Early research in this area was difficult since the components and items in the questionnaire had not been determined (Schuh, Zhang, & Tian, 2013).

Current research on the types of leadership, especially transformational leadership, uses a scale of charismatic leadership to gauge the leadership qualities of individuals (Schuh, Zhang, & Tian, 2013).

The charismatic leadership scale contains items that evaluate leadership results rather than the leadership qualities themselves or the actions that the leaders engage in (Schuh, Zhang, & Tian, 2013).

Different tools have been proposed for use in research around this area. Antonakis, Avolio, and Sivasubramaniam (2003) reveal that one of the tools is the MLQ Form 5X whose current version includes thirty-six items that are broken down into nine scales. According to Antonakis, Avolio, and Sivasubramaniam (2003), the use of the MLQ Form 5X is an effective way of measuring the leadership qualities in a manager.

These researchers confirmed the efficiency of the proposed MLQ model using the results that they got from their study (Antonakis, Avolio, & Sivasubramaniam, 2003).

Some researchers have also stated that the proposed model may not be effective and that there is a need to adopt better models in future research (Antonakis, Avolio, &Sivasubramaniam, 2003).

However, none of these researchers has provided evidence to contradict the results of Antonakis, Avolio, and Sivasubramaniam, (2003). The few who have attempted provided insignificant sample sizes.

Transformational leadership has been associated with a number of changes since it was introduced as a concept in organizational behavior. Some researchers have stated that this form of leadership has led to the emergence of high levels of satisfaction within organizations that apply it (Bass, 1985).

According to Bass (1985), this structure of leadership has also resulted in increased commitment within organizations, with this case being associated with increased performance in different areas of any particular organization.

Transformational leadership results in the implementation of policies and changes that oversee the success of organizations in any field. According to Bass (1985), transformational leaders create awareness on issues that need to be discussed in the organization.

They raise alarm for the services that consumers are getting, or the other functions of organizations. The result of this situation is improved organizational performance and success in the end.

Transformational leadership also enables leaders to institute changes that are beneficial to the organization as a whole. They use these changes to increase the performance and revenues for the organization (Bass, 1985).

Many organizations that have adopted transformational leadership have reported improved performance over the years, with the service industry being the largest beneficiary of this form of leadership. In the United Arabs Emirates, the practice of leadership is not different from any other part of the world.

The UAE has companies that operate on a local and international front. These companies apply the different forms of leadership, including transformational leadership. Few researchers have attempted to discuss the leadership qualities of the leaders in the UAE, especially in the private organizations.

Transformational Leadership at Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart is an example of an international organization with the history of applying transformational leadership (Ann, & Carr, 2010). This institution has had significant success both on the local and international fronts.

According to Ann and Carr (2010), Wal-Mart requires transformational as well as transactional leadership. Transformational leadership is important in the provision of direction for the organization while transactional leadership determines the success with which the daily operations are carried out.

The success that is evident in Wal-Mart can be attributed in part to the transformational leadership that is practiced in the company.

Ann and Carr (2010) observe that among the leaders who have been in leadership positions in the company, Sam Walton who is also the founder was the individual who contributed significantly to this organization’s success.

One of the strategies that were applied at the institution during Walton’s reign is the visit to each store by the CEO (Ann & Carr, 2010). The managers and top-officials still visit the stores on a regular basis, irrespective of the location of the stores and/or the output they record (Ann & Carr, 2010).

The frequent visits in the subsidiary stores have been in existence since the times of Walton. Changes have been attributed to this policy. Leaders and managers in these stores are able to understand the challenges that the employees go through.

The contact that the leaders get with the different levels of employees informs their decision-making and the choices that are available for them. The frequent visits by the leaders in the organization have made it possible for employees to work more effectively towards the organizational goals.

According to Ann and Carr (2010), employees get to interact with their leaders who have the opportunity of emphasizing the organizational goals and objectives.

Ann and Carr (2010) describe an example of a visit that led to change at Wal-Mart. Mike Duke, the CEO, visited the Chinese store and found out that the store was not stocking some commodities such as the local Chinese bananas, which were said to be cheaper in relation to the imported ones (Ann, & Carr, 2010).

This finding led to action and change in this store. The results can be said to be positive for the organization. Most visits by the top management for these stores have resulted in changes that are beneficial to the organization as a whole.

Apart from identifying the challenges that are present in the various stores, the other effect is in the motivation of the associates (Ann, & Carr, 2010).

Apart from the motivational factors in an organization such as appreciation and remuneration, contact with one’s superiors has been associated with some form of motivation because employees or other associates are able to interact with them and provide feedback on the problems and issues affecting them.

Wal-Mart has always held that employees and associates provide the best ideas in an organization. The ideas may be beneficial to the organizational performance. Interaction with the employees provides the management with ideas that are appropriate for the success of the company.

Transformational leadership at Wal-Mart can also be exemplified by the changes that have taken place in the past in this organization, including ‘Project Impact’ (Ann, & Carr, 2010), which was launched because of the feedback from customers in the various stores. After a period in operation, ‘Project Impact’ was reversed.

This move was also informed by the customer feedback in the various stores. The change to ‘Project Impact’ demonstrates transformational leadership in place at Wal-Mart. This effort shows that leaders are not afraid to carry out major decisions that are based on the customer expectations.

The impact of these moves was evident in the shopping experience that was reported by the organization’s customers.

The other factor about transformational leadership for the organization is the willingness that the leaders display in their choice of hard decisions. Over the years, Wal-Mart management has had to make major decisions such as exiting a market.

The organization is successful in many parts of the world. When it finally admitted defeat and/or closed its operations in Germany, this move was a shocker for many people (Ann, & Carr, 2010).

The past experiences in success did not stop the management from making this tough decision, which is also reported to have cost Wal-Mart lots of money (Ann, & Carr, 2010). This particular change enabled the company introduce measures that allowed it to exit markets as a way of avoiding future crises.

Transformational leadership at Wal-Mart has ensured the existence of a leadership pipeline. The CEO and other senior managers have set upon themselves to contribute towards a successful leadership pipeline. The management recruits many leaders in various positions.

It proceeds with training of these leaders on the different leadership strategies. The growth of Wal-Mart into a global brand has ensured that the company plays an important part in the transformation of the sector in which it operates.

Transformational leadership allows the introduction of change in organizations. Through this form of leadership, organizations are able to become more productive and profitable.

Wal-Mart has been a source of inspiration to many leaders, especially those that operate on the international front. Many companies have had to close their operations over the years, with some having to go under receivership or close completely. However, Wal-Mart continues to increase its branches worldwide.

This achievement is attributable to the strong transformational leadership present in this organization. The CEO has been involved in most of the organizational functions that take place in the different stores.

This effort has been a tradition that has existed in the institution for many years. Therefore, this organization is a proof that transformational leadership can be an advantage for organizations that choose to apply it.


The research was carried out in a population of leaders within the organizational setting in the UAE. The participants of this study were selected based on their positions of leadership in organizations. The method that was used to select the participants was the random sampling.

The obtained sample size consisted of 58 participants. The number of male participants in this study was 43, with that of female participants being 15. Further assessment of the participants established that 33 were foreigners while 25 of them were locals.

The tool that was chosen for data collection is a questionnaire where the participants had to answer the provided questions. The questionnaire is one of the most useful tools in organizational behavior. It enables researchers collect the necessary information within a short duration (Ann & Carr, 2010).

A questionnaire also enables researchers major on the areas that are of importance in the research. It avoids any deviation. The participants were provided with the questionnaires that consisted of questions that were a self-assessment on the various leadership qualities.

After the collection of data using these questionnaires, the data was then analyzed. The analysis was to establish whether the assumptions made in the beginning were valid based on the hypotheses. The tools used in the analysis of the obtained results included the use of SPSS software and Microsoft Excel sheets.

These tools were the best of the analysis apparatus that were available in the course of the research. The tests of significance were also applied to test the hypotheses and/or establish the outcome of the research.


Out of the 100 managers that were targeted in the research, 58 responded to the questionnaires, thus representing a success rate of 58%. However, the sample size was significant for the provision of adequate results and the making of conclusions.

As indicated earlier, the number of male participants in this research was 43, with this figure being a proportion of 74%. The proportion of female participants was 25.8%, which was a reliable sample distribution.

Age was also a factor in the study. The age categories that were used included the age below 20, between 20 and 30, and individuals above 30 years. None of the participants was below 20 years while the number of participants between 20 and 30 years was 15.

The greatest number of participants lay in the bracket of individuals above 30 years. The age was significant as it dictates the behaviors of the different managers in the surveyed organizations. Most of the participants (33) were foreigners while the rest (25) were permanent UAE citizens and locals.

The average experience that the participants had in their respective organizations was 7.3 years (SD=0.3). 21 participants had worked for less than five years in the organization that they were at the time, while 14 had worked here for more than ten years.

The largest proportion of participants had worked in the organizations that they were in for a period of between five and ten years, with the number being 23. Different departments were represented in the study.

They include IT (2), the finance department (4), human resource management (4), customer service (14), operation (22), and the administration department (10). They had different functions and jurisdictions in their area of work.

To ensure that there was representation of various levels of management, the study consisted of many levels of jobs, with each participant having a specific job level in their area of operation. None of the participants was in senior management while 21 of the participants were in middle management.

The sample also consisted of 18 participants in the supervisory level while 19 participants were in the position of mere employees. The questionnaires were used to evaluate the leadership qualities in these individuals. The results were used to indicate the level of leadership skills for these participants.

Different industries were represented in the study, with the majority of the participants being in the construction industry.

The other industries included petro chemicals, construction/ real estate, transportation, employment business, telecommunication, banking, finance, healthcare, retail sales, tourism, and automotive industries.

From the data obtained in the study, transformational leadership in the UAE companies is relatively weak and is not effectively applied. From the self-assessment of the participants, it is clear there is a need for improved participation in this form of leadership.

The levels of significance that were applied in the study to establish the relevance of the findings include 0.05 and 0.01. These levels were used for some of the measures that were applied in the study. There was a positive correlation between the data obtained in the study.

In the assessment of transformational leadership in the UAE, the data obtained shows that the different leaders and individuals have different leadership characteristics. The underlying leadership characteristics such as transformational leadership are acquired.

The UAE culture can be a significant influence on the type of leadership that is displayed in the area. However, the participation of other employees and managers from other parts of the world only emphasizes the complexity of the problem.

The current organizational setting allows the combination of many leadership styles and characteristics. The UAE society should experiment on the use of more than one style.

Discussion and Recommendations

The type of leadership that is adopted in an organization determines the outcomes of the organizational goals and targets.

Among the different types of leadership that have been proposed, transformational leadership is the most commonly applied, with the reason behind this finding being the success obtained with its application in international organizations such as Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart has a transformational leadership that can be used as a model for other organizations (Ann & Carr, 2010).

In the UAE, the study establishes that the application of transformational leadership is limited to some areas and position of leadership. Bass (1985) observes that transformational leadership is a key part of any organization.

The various surveyed individuals were in positions of leadership, with most of them playing a part in the organization that they worked in. If all individuals were able to bring change to their respective organizations, there would be a series of changes in the UAE, especially in the represented areas.

The UAE society, especially the corporate sector, is demonstrated to have a form of leadership that is mostly transactional. This means that the leaders have the leadership characteristics that enable them to lead their employees towards success, although they have inadequate skills to effect changes in these organizations.

The research demonstrates that employees in organizations in the UAE have some leadership skills, which are largely not transformational leadership qualities. The self-assessment provided in the questionnaires is adequate to evaluate the characteristics of the leaders in the UAE.

This finding proved that the leaders are not as transformational as they are perceived. Transformational leadership is useful especially in organizations that operate on the international front. The study was significant because it looked at more foreign respondents based in the UAE.

The results indicate that these individuals were effective leaders, although most of them did not apply transformational leadership skills.

Several recommendations are possible for the UAE society, especially the corporate part of this society. One is that the region needs to adopt better transformational leadership training institutions.

The increase in the number of institutions offering higher education in the region should be accompanied by corresponding increase in the output of such leaders. The society should also participate in the mentoring of transformational leaders in the country.

There are different types of leaders that have been in different positions of leadership, and there is a correlation between the duration of leadership and this form of leadership.

Leaders that have served for longer in organizations were found to have a considerable degree of transformational leadership, but those that had only worked for a short period had less of the quality according to the self-assessment questionnaire results.

Therefore, the recommendation is that organizations in the UAE should transfer employees between departments.

If this observation is implemented for leaders, they will likely introduce change to the organizations. This change will go a long way in ensuring that the employees contribute positively to the organizational performance.


In conclusion, transformational leadership is a type of leadership that leads to changes in organizations. This type of leadership leads to the leaders controlling the output of employees under them, thus ensuring that the employees are headed in the right direction.

This paper has focused on transformational leadership and the effects that it has on organizations. Most of the international organizations have observed improvements in their performance because of transformational leadership.

One of these organizations that are the center of focus in the paper is Wal-Mart, which is a successful organization on the local and international front. The company’s CEO practices transformational leadership. The various characteristics of this form of leadership are provided in the paper.

Transformational leadership in the UAE is evident in the leaders that are respondents in this particular study. The region has numerous leaders in different capacities. However, this particular study has compared a sample of this population to the standard practices.

The participants are deemed transformational leaders, with this characteristic varying based on the position of the participants.

Transformational leadership should be adopted in the UAE organizations to ensure success. The paper has also provided recommendations that should be implemented for success of the company in the future.

Reference List

Ann, C., & Carr, N. (2010). Critical reflections on the good, the bad and the ugly of organization leadership: the case of Wal-Mart. Culture & Organization, 16(2), 109-125.

Antonakis, J., Avolio, B. J., & Sivasubramaniam, N. (2003). Context and leadership: An examination of the nine-factor Full-Range Leadership Theory using the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire. The Leadership Quarterly, 14(3), 261-295.

Bass, B. M. (1985), Leadership and Performance. New York, N.Y. Free Press.

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

Effelsberg, D., Solga, M., & Gurt, J. (2014). Transformational Leadership and Follower’s Unethical Behavior for the Benefit of the Company: A Two-Study Investigation. Journal Of Business Ethics, 120(1), 81-93.

Northouse, P. G. (2001). Leadership Theory and Practice, second edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Schuh, S., Zhang, X., & Tian, P. (2013). For the Good or the Bad? Interactive Effects of Transformational Leadership with Moral and Authoritarian Leadership Behaviors. Journal Of Business Ethics, 116(3), 629-640.

Walton, S., & Huey, J. (1996). Sam Walton: Made in America: My Story. Canada: Bantam Books.

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