Transformational leadership is one of the most researched, studied, and debated approach to leadership that has ever existed. It also greatly influences many leadership approaches used today although most of these leaders aren’t even aware it exists.
Transformational leadership is a management style that’s designed to give employees more room to be creative, look to the future and find new solutions to old problems. Transformational leaders inspire and motivate their workforce without micromanaging – they trust trained employees and take deliberate steps to empower them more to take authority over decisions in their assigned jobs.
The transformational leader is interested in developing both the individual and the team. They aim to empower the people under their leadership such they may reach their full potential, to improve their skills and abilities, and gain confidence in their unique talents and values.
They make great efforts to understand someone’s abilities, skills and needs, and then offers coaching and mentoring to help them to succeed in their particular situation. For the team, the transformational leader agrees common values and beliefs, and encourages people to reach shared goals.
As far its origin story goes, the term “transformational leadership” was first coined by the historian and political scientist, James MacGregor Burns back in in the late 1970s, and was used to distinguish the inspirational leadership style from the more conventional transactional leadership.
Transactional vs. transformational leadership
Transactional leadership is the exact opposite of transformational leadership – it relies on motivating employees through rewards and punishments. It calls for supervision, oversight, organisation and performance-monitoring. This leadership model doesn’t try to innovate, there is no room for trial and error. Instead, it’s rooted in keeping things consistent and predictable over time.
Transformational leadership, on the other hand, supports agile environments and allows for innovation, especially where failure carries less risk.
You want the development and maintenance of a current product to remain consistent and error free, but you don’t want that to hinder the progress and growth of future updates and improvements. Transformational leadership leaves people free to come up with new ideas and look at the future of products, services and ideas.
Basic elements of transformational leadership
Bernard M. Bass is another scholar who famously studied and researched the transformational style of leadership in the 1980s.
Bass identified four components to transformational leadership and figured out a way that all four can start with the letter “I” so that it might be called the 4I Model. Here is a breakdown of the 4I Model’s description of the key elements of transformational leadership.
This component states that transformational leaders act as role models and that followers will seek to emulate their behaviour.
In addition to being considered generally extraordinary leaders, one must have a willingness to take risks, consistent (versus arbitrary) behaviour, and high levels of integrity and ethics.
This component states that transformational leaders behave in ways that are inspirational to followers and provide meaning and a sense of challenge to their work.
This is achieved in three different ways: involving followers in the development of a preferred vision for the future, communicating clear expectations, and by demonstrating a clear commitment to the shared goals and vision of the team.
This component states that transformational leaders include followers in addressing organisational problems and stimulate and support them in being as creative and innovative as possible in identifying solutions.
The leaders accomplish this by encouraging followers to challenge assumptions and approach existing problems in novel ways. All this is done in a context in which no idea is considered too stupid.
This component states that transformational leaders give individualised attention to each follower’s professional development by acting as a coach or mentor.
The key element is that customised learning opportunities are designed for each follower based on that person’s unique needs and desires. These learning opportunities are often delegated action learning tasks that the leader assigns and monitors.
The qualities of transformational leadership
Below are five qualities you must possess to be a transformational leader:
Transformational leaders have a vision of what they want to achieve and the ability to clearly communicate this vision.
This results in everyone in the organisation understanding what is required of them as individuals and as teams to achieve this vision. Is your vision clear? Does it need to be refined?
An effective leader needs courage; a willingness to take on new challenges, take calculated risks, make tough decisions, and be willing to go out on a limb for something they believe in.
Transformational leaders have the courage to create a vision and make the difficult decision necessary to achieve it.
Leaders need to fuel their passion from within. They rely on no one else to give them the drive they need.
Transformational leaders have passion and motivation that others can sense and feed off of. Are you passionate about your vision and willing to do the hard work needed to see your vision achieved?
Transformational leaders, based on their personal passion, have the ability to inspire others and get them to buy into their vision and execute it on all levels of the company.
How do you inspire your people to create change? Are you effective at motivating and inspiring your team?
Personal interaction is important. The impact of a simple “hello” in the hallway or conversation in the lobby goes a long way into getting people to feel important and want to be part of the vision a leader has created for the company.
You have the ability to impact each of your team on a personal level. When was the last time you took the time to listen to your team and get to know them as individuals?
Transformational leadership is a leadership style in which leaders encourage, inspire and motivate employees to innovate and create change that will help grow and shape the future success of the company.
This is accomplished by setting an example at the executive level through a strong sense of corporate culture, employee ownership and independence in the workplace.