Transformational Leadership, Justice, and Organizational Change

Transformational leadership gets a lot of attention in leadership training, theory, and research because of its focus on individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, and idealized influence. Plenty of research indicates that transformational leaders are more effective in motivating and engaging their followers, especially when organizational change is necessary. 

"Organizational change" can be a dreaded phrase among the rank and file employees of an organization because with it often comes the elimination of positions, the restructuring of reporting relationships, and the redistribution of job responsibilities. Because of this, employees may experience change as unfair and perhaps even unjust. Organizational justice can be broadly defined as perceptions of fairness in organizational decision-making. There are three types of organizational justice:

  1. Distributive justice - fairness in the distribution of outcomes
  2. Procedural justice - fairness of the processes leading to outcomes
  3. Interactional justice - fairness in the treatment granted to others as well as information flow and thorough explanations of process and procedure

To more fully explore the relationships between transformational leadership, effective organizational change, and justice, Deschamps and colleagues examined 257 managers in 60 healthcare organizations going through significant organizational changes. Not surprisingly, the researchers discovered that those managers who were seen as possessing the qualities of transformational leadership had a positive effect on their followers' perceptions of procedural and interactional organizational justice. Interestingly, procedural and interactional justice compensated for the lack of distributive justice, which is often unrealistic and outside of individual managers' ability to control. Engaging in behaviors that demonstrate procedural and interactional justice contributed to boosting employee motivation and long-term organizational success. 

So what do procedural and interactional justice look like in action?

Interactional Justice:

  • Being respectful of employees at all times
  • Seeking employees' input in decision-making
  • Listening carefully to employees' concerns
  • Promptly informing employees of changes to personnel, processes, or procedures

Procedural Justice: 

  • Evaluating procedures according to how consistently they are applied
  • Being ethical in following procedures
  • Working to reduce bias in processes and procedures
  • Ensuring accuracy of processes and procedures
  • Allowing employee input on the effectiveness of processes and procedures

The next time you find yourself in the midst of a difficult organizational change, evaluate how you are displaying interactional and procedural justice in relationship to your employees. It could make a difference between a successful and a catastrophic change. 

Research Article: Deschamps, C., Rinfret, N., Lagace, M.C., & Prive, C. (2016). Transformational leadership and change: How leaders influence their followers' motivation through organizational justice. Journal of Healthcare Management, 61, 194-213.

Jaime GoffComment