Transcendent leadership: Strategic leadership in dynamic environments
, Dusya Vera
, Len Nanjad
Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario, 1151 Richmond Street North, London, ON Canada N6A 3K7
C.T. Bauer College of Business, The University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204-6030, USA
Business Consultant in Organization and Change Strategy, Toronto, ON Canada
article info abstract
Adopting a cross-level mixed effect model, this paper proposes transcendent leadership as a
framework for the key responsibilities of strategic leaders in today's dynamic contexts. A
transcendent leader is a strategic leader who leads within and amongst the levels of self, others,
and organization. Leadership of self includes the responsibility of being self-aware and proactive in
developing personal strengths. Leadership of others involves the mechanisms of interpersonal
inﬂuencea leader has upon followers.Leadership of organization comprises the alignment of three
interrelated areas: environment, strategy, and organization. Propositions are presented regarding
the relationship between leadership of the various levels and ﬁrm performance.
© 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Recently, academics have made explicit efforts to provide managers with guidance about the strategic leadership requirements
of today's dynamic contexts. Ireland & Hitt (2005, p. 63) advise that, “competition in the 21st century's global economy will be
complex, challenging, and ﬁlled with competitive opportunities and threats.” They discuss the need for effective strategic
leadership practices that help ﬁrms enhance performance while competing in turbulent environments. Similarly, Luthans &
Slocum (2004, p. 227) state that, “Faced with an unprecedented economic, technological, sociopolitical, and moral/ethical
tumultuous sea of change, there is a need for new theories, new applications and just plain new thinking about leadership.”
We join the debate about the strategic leadership requirements of today's dynamic environments by seeking to provide a
different perspective on strategic leadership, one that emphasizes the responsibilities managed by leaders at the top of the ﬁrm.
We employ a cross-level mixed effect model to frame the discussion of strategic leadership responsibilities in highly dynamic
contexts. In doing so, we also address calls for more integration between micro and macro leadership work and for more attention
to the contextual aspects of leadership (House & Aditya, 1997; Hunt, 2004; Osborn, Hunt, & Jaunch, 2002; Waldman, Javidan, &
Varella, 2004; Yukl, 1999). Our approach enables us to extend the substantial literature concerning the mechanisms of the
interpersonal inﬂuence of a leader upon subordinates, which we refer to as leadership of others, by incorporating two more levels
of leadership responsibility: leadership of self and leadership of the organization.
When examining whether existing models of leadership can be applied to the leadership of organizations in today's dynamic
contexts, we identify two major gaps. First, the study of leadership has largely focused on individual, dyadic, and small-group
levels. Consequently, leadership theory has largely been seen as the domain of organizational behavior, anchored in a more micro-
oriented perspective (Waldman et al., 2004). It is only in the last 20 years that researchers have started to move away from the
study of “supervisory” leadership towards the study of “strategic” leadership (Boal & Hooijberg, 2000; House & Aditya, 1997). By
emphasizing the micro levels, the focus has been on behaviors speciﬁc to the leader–follower relationship rather than on the
strategic responsibilities of leadership in crafting strategy that provides an architecture enabling the organization to thrive in a
The Leadership Quarterly 19 (2008) 569–581
⁎ Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 519 661 3217; fax: +1 519 661 3959.
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Tel.: +1 713 743 4677; fax: +1 713 743 4652.
Tel.: +1 416 549 3916; fax: +1 416 549 3701.
1048-9843/$ – see front matter © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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