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Change-Oriented Leadership: The Effectiveness of Transformational and Charismatic Leaders

At some point in a person’s career, he or she may play a leading role in a specific capacity. One might consider recognizing or endorsing a particular style of leadership, whether he or she heads a briefing, project, group, or an entire company (Al-Malki & Juan, 2018). Most professionals develop their unique leadership styles based on factors such as experience and character, basic standards of their company, and the culture of their organization (Al-Malki & Juan, 2018). Depending on their industry and challenges they face, leaders may have a mixture of leadership styles. This essay focuses on Travis Kalanick, the founder and previous CEO of Uber, a global transport service providing company. Considering the diversity of management styles, the paper aims to determine whether Kalanick used charismatic, transformational, or transactional leadership or combined all of them.

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Kalanick rose from different businesses to the CEO of the company through hard work. According to Sivarajan and Varma, (2018), Kretchmer, a longtime friend of Kalanik, describes him as an incredibly aggressive person whose caricature does not come from pretending. His charisma shaped him up as a child to race ahead of others which led to a big followership. Charismatic leaders draw their effectiveness from a rare magnetic appeal and attraction that stirs loyalty and excitement from the employees working under him. Al-Malki and Juan (2018) state that these individuals have legitimate influence resulting from their righteousness, bravery, or admirable behavior. Travis, through his leadership journey, portrays this kind of style on various occasions. Particularly in major organizations, charismatic leaders single-handedly influence changes. Their character is a strong force, and they form close relationships with their followers.

The charismatic concept of leadership includes a dynamic interplay between a leader’s qualities and the needs, values, beliefs, and expectations of the followers. Al-Malki and Juan (2018) note that many influential visionary leaders usually pair their charismatic skills with attitudes which are aligned with the same values of leadership practiced by their successful counterparts. However, those who do not integrate the aspects still attract followers but do not manage to achieve organizational goals effectively (Al-Malki and Juan, 2018). Thus, in the world of business, they are dominant, with plenty of followers but no meaningful direction. Charismatic leaders have a strong need for authority and a desire to depend strongly on their core power structure as a reference (Al-Malki & Juan, 2018). According to Tayan and Larcker (2018), at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco, Kalanik was in charge of everything from executive decision-making to the exact hour when his employees could drink beer. In addition, Uber’s almost complete dominance is essentially made possible by the double-class share framework that offers ten votes per share to its members.

Transformational leadership is the second style Kalanik can be compared to. It encourages others to act according to their personal beliefs, ambition, creativity, faith, and devotion to a mission. According to Al-Malki and Juan (2018), when companies face a chaotic atmosphere, severe competition, or any other challenge, administrators cannot depend entirely on management structure to direct organizational behavior. Therefore, a transformational leader can motivate their followers by empowering and encouraging them to effectively utilize their talents. To an extent, Kalanik is not this kind of leader, primarily because of how he mistreats his employees.

Idealized influence is a component of a transformational type of authority, which suggests that leader’s conduct can motivate the employees to try and emulate their positive behaviors. However, according to Tayan and Larcker (2018), Uber has been hit by numerous scandals, including one where Kalanik is seen on a video angrily rebuking a driver from his company. Another instance occurred when a former female worker was sexually assaulted under his leadership, yet he did nothing, indicating the lack of idealized influence.

As a motivator, he was confident about his employees’ abilities to achieve goals and often provided meaning to them by appreciating the value of their roles and obligations (Post Magazine, 2015). Through his management, Uber evolved into an internationally excellent company with a value of over $60 billion. He also succeeded in a file-sharing company, which he sold at $19 million (Tayan & Larcker, 2018). Therefore, Kalanik seems to portray himself as both an inspirational motivator and also exhibits intellectual stimulation ability. This means that he could not have achieved all the above without incorporating the two transformational components. Finally, Kalanik lacks individualized consideration, which entails the consciousness of specific talents that each member brings to the company. Tayan and Larcker (2018) state that he held the authority loop tight, rendering four board positions empty as he tried to consolidate power around him. In general, Kalanik does not qualify to be a transformational leader.

Kalanik can also be viewed as an individual who exhibited transactional leadership. It is a governance style which helps to drive the team towards the completion of a task by establishing a structure and providing a reward in return for the desired actions (Al-Malki & Juan, 2018b). Transactional leaders are likely to oversee huge organizations or head international initiatives which demand sets of rules and policies to meet targets on a timely and coordinated basis. Kalanik is this type of leader by all means as he headed one of the biggest companies. Tayan and Larcker (2018) explain that, according to a former employee, the CEO managed closely every operation in the company. At some point during his tenure, he directed the taps of beer locked in the office during specific hours and on another edited press reports himself despite having a full public relations department (Tayan & Larcker, 2018). A transactional leader also rewards and punishes his/her employees, depending on their performances, which explains why Kalanik was seen on a video scolding one of his employees, a driver (Al-Malki & Juan, 2018). By reprimanding the staff member, Kalanik proved to be a transactional leader.

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In conclusion, there are several concerns about the strategies used by Uber’s founder and former CEO, Travis Kalanick, such as allegations of employee harassment. As a charismatic leader, he affected change in an industry that no one had thought of venturing into, thus portraying himself as a person with an idealized influence, which is a transformational leadership component. Conversely, in the same light, he does not confer with individualized consideration, making him more of a transactional leader. However, his resignation from the post depicts him as a flexible leader though he still has a lot of influence in terms of his company’s shares. From Kalanik’s business journey, it is clear that people’s experiences and personal behaviors play a vital role in shaping the leadership styles they put into practice.


Al-Malki, M., & Juan, W. (2018). Leadership styles and job performance: A literature review. Journal of International Business Research and Marketing, 3(3), 40–49. Web.

Sivarajan, R., & Varma, A. (2018). How a charismatic – destructive leader falls: A dramaturgical-rhetorical analysis of Travis Kalanick’ s leadership lifecycle at Uber. Web.

South China Morning Post. (2015). Travis Kalanick, the fall and spectacular rise of the man behind Uber | South China Morning Post. Web.

Tayan, B., & Larcker, D. (2018). Governance gone wild: Misbehavior at Uber Technologies. The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance. Web.

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