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RCMP Leaders: Do They Have What It Takes?

Apr 09

G’day lads and lasses! Brilliant sun here on Vancouver Island; looks like the beginning of a beautiful Summer. I hope you are all well and into your lives, not your heads. There’s always time for cogitating upon whatever horrid (and unusual) experiences you have had at work whilst you are on the “head”! Summer, and your life, are calling. The recent retirement of a senior officer in the Maritimes catalyzed my thinking around one of my favourite topics: leadership. In this humble presentation I would like to examine the difference between “transformational” and “transactional” leaders. After reading the article, I invite you to respond with regard to a present leader you may have, a past leader you have had, or even with regard to the “grand poobah” himself. (Might you be coming West again this week, “Bad Boy”? If this is so “Bobbo”, please feel free to call me; you have my number, along with much else including my preference in underwear, nudge-nudge-wink-wink-say no more-say no more.) Right then, away we go…..

I shall begin by defining “transformational leadership” as, an approach that stimulates change in individuals and social systems. A major tenet in the approach is to create positive and valuable change in followers with an end goal of developing followers into leaders. Ideally transformational leadership enhances motivation, morale, and performance of followers via a variety of mechanisms, including connecting followers’ self images to the mission and the collective identity of the organization (or other social system). Transformational leaders are inspired by being role models for followers; they challenge followers to take greater ownership of their work; and, they understand the strengths and weaknesses of followers. In this way they can match followers with tasks that will optimize their performance. The concept of transformational leadership first appeared in the literature related to the description of political leaders (Burns,1978). It is now used to describe leadership in a variety of realms and a central topic of organizational psychology.

According to Burns, transformational leadership at its’ core is a process whereby “leaders and followers help each other to advance to a higher level of morale and motivation”. His major research focus was in the difference between management and leadership; and he hypothesized the differences lay in the characteristics and behaviours exhibited by the leader. These factors can create significant change in the lives of people and organizations. They redesign perceptions and values; altering the expectations and aspirations of followers.

Transformational leadership is not based upon the usual “give and take” relationship found in most organizations, but more upon the leader’s personality traits and ability to bring about change through example; even more so, the ability to articulate an energizing vision and challenging goals. Transformative leaders are often idealized as they act as moral exemplars devoted to a team, an organization, or a community.

The literature in this area suggests that “transforming” and “transactional” leaders are mutually exclusive operators. The latter appear not to pursue organizational change, but work within an existing culture while the former aggressively attempt to change that culture.

One way to contrast the two styles of leadership has been to measure their influence on followers’ motivation and performance. The followers of a transformative leader report experiencing trust, admiration, loyalty, and respect where their leader is concerned. These leaders distinguish themselves by working for more than self gain; they thrive on providing followers with an inspiring vision and mission, giving them a powerful identity. The transformational leader is viewed as transforming and motivating followers through her/his “charisma”, intellectualism and focus on individual consideration. Moreover these leaders encourage followers to challenge the status quo, to change the context, and to support and ensure success.

Large scale meta-analyses of the research data in this area has pared it all down to four major elements that constitute “transformational leadership”:

I. Individualized Consideration.

* transformational leaders create a system that attends to each followers’

* mentors and coaches (in larger organizations) who are willing to listen,
understanding, non-threatening, and worthy of respect are provided for the

* communication is encouraged, lines are kept open, and personal challenges
are placed in front of each follower.

* each follower is respected as well as her/his contribution to the team.

II. Intellectual Stimulation.

* both leader’s and followers’ assumptions are challenged.

* followers’ ideas are solicited.

* creativity is encouraged and stimulated in followers.

* independent thinkers and independent thinking is nurtured.

* learning is highly valued and unexpected problems are welcomed
and framed as learning opportunities.

III. Inspirational Motivation.

* the transformative leader has the ability to articulate a vision
that is both appealing and inspiring to followers

* the transformative leader is able to communicate optimism with
regard to future goals.

* the transformative leader is able to give meaning to the mission.

* the transformative leader is able to provide the visionary aspects (e.g.
sense of purpose) that drive followers forward.

* the transformative leader is in command of communication skills that
make the vision understandable, precise, powerful, and engaging.

IV. Idealized Influence.

* the transformational leader is, at all times, a model of ethical behaviour,
is able to instill pride, and earns respect and trust on a daily basis.

Well lads and lasses, there it is! Does it sound like your immediate leader or your “exalted leader”? Is the “leader” you have in mind “transformational” or more “transactional” (i.e. traditional)? Would this kind of “transformational” leadership fit the existing RCMP organizational model? Can you see the value in a more streamlined Force? Please feel free (strong enough?) to make comment. Given the opportunity I will take “the hit” for you. I have hesitated to snipe as we moved through the article as I didn’t want to influence anyone. If you have something positive to say about a leader, please do so. I am simply at your service. Before I bid you adieu, here is a pearl for you…….

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life!!”

–Winston Churchill

Dr. Mike Webster
Registered Psychologist

  1. Scottish Soldier permalink

    Aye Dr. Webster, the real difference between a “leader” and a “dictator”!

    The transformational leader leads the change from the front whilst the transactional leader “pushes” for change from the rear.

    This reminds me very much of a certain somebody who thinks that he is very prominent in policing in your country.

  2. Eagle asked, “Does leadership have its’ own power?” Osprey said, “It circulates.” Eagle asked, “What is its’ course of circulation?” Osprey Roshi said, “Why don’t you lead the meeting tonight?”

  3. Dogfish asked, “Is life, going with the flow?” Salmon responded, “Is that a life?” Dogfish came back, “What is life then?” Salmon said, “Going against the grain.” Dogfish thought out loud, “Sounds hard.” Salmon said, “Up stream.”

  4. So Eagle worked up the courage to lead a meeting, but said very little. Raccoon asked, “If the truth is mostly wordless, why do we usually talk so much?” Squirrel said, “Maybe we should be listening to the silence between the words.” Frog thought for a moment then said, “The words!”………………”the words!”……………….”the words!”……………..”

  5. thewolfinsheeps permalink

    The RCMP does actually have some of these people within the organization. Sadly however, very few of them ever reach the Commissioned ranks. Not only does the RCMP not welcome any of the leadership qualities you speak of above Dr Webster, they will active seek it out and crush it. As I’ve mentioned previously, the RCMP has a “philosophy” of leadership that they believe actually works, despite much glaring evidence to the contrary. It remains quite simple..if you don’t buy in…you don’t get in. So the people this organization possesses and so desperately needs in senior management roles (Officers) will never get there. The force will never evolve if the present broken philosophy is allowed to continue to perpetuate itself.

    The RCMP will never change itself from within. Why? The people running things don’t think there is anything wrong. To admit there is something wrong, they would have to admit their failure. Which they will never do. It’s actually not their fault. Most of them have never been equipped for the job. They have been fooled into thinking they are leaders based on acceptance into a philosophy that has nothing to do with leadership.

    The true leaders who are out there, mostly in the NCO ranks, meanwhile will employ much of what you speak of above Mike, and they will positively influence numerous people they work with, they will however eventually be worn down. The worst part is the people they influence have to watch it happen. You can only ram your into into a brick wall so many times before you lose the will to try. It’s a very helpless and sad feeling for them to know what needs to happen, too know how different things could be, to actually know how to get there, and continually be blocked at every turn by those in jeopardy of being proven wrong.


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