Transformational leadership, corporate cultism and the spirituality paradigm: an unholy trinity in the workplace?
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Leadership is a perennially popular topic in the academic and practitioner literature on management. In particular, the past twenty years have witnessed an explosive growth of interest in what has been termed ‘transformational leadership’ (henceforth, TL). The theory is closely linked to the growth in what has been defined as corporate culturism – an emphasis on the importance of coherent cultures, as a means of securing competitive advantage. This paper outlines the central components of TL theory, and subjects the concept to a critical analysis. In particular, similarities are identified between the components concerned and the characteristics of leadership practice in organizations generally defined as cults. This connection has been previously unremarked in the literature. These similarities are comprehensively reviewed. Trends towards what can be defined as corporate cultism in modern management practice are also discussed. We conclude that TL models are overly concerned with the achievement of corporate cohesion to the detriment of internal dissent. Such dissent is a vital ingredient of effective decision-making. It is suggested that more inclusive and participatory models of the leadership process are required.