What is Transformational Leadership?

What is Transformational Leadership?

James MacGregor Burns was the man who initially popularised the technique of supervision known as transformational leadership. It is a style of leadership where leaders and followers collaborate to boost team morale and motivation levels.

Transformational leaders motivate individuals to alter their perceptions, expectations, or motives to work toward a shared objective or goal rather than imposing changes on their team. Bernard Bass, who developed this idea, claimed that this procedure results in greater levels of admiration, trust, and respect.

Characteristics of Transformational Leadership

What is Transformational Leadership?

Building Relationships

Building and maintaining wholesome relationships with one’s followers as well as with the rest of the team or company is one of the defining characteristics of transformational leadership.

This leader can relate to people, regardless of how diverse they are, since they are relationship builders. They can relate to their particular demands and difficulties. Additionally, this leader is charismatic and relatable.

Having the ability to handle current problems and avoid new ones between oneself and others, as well as across one’s entire group or organization, is another aspect of developing and maintaining relationships.

Discreet Communicator

The practice and promotion of feedback-centric communication is another trait of a transformative leader. Of course, this person needs to be able to communicate effectively and efficiently to establish and sustain relationships.

Keep in mind that open communicators also listen actively. He or she pays close attention to what his or her folks are saying, comprehends what they are saying, responds, and thinks about what is being said before providing input.

Being open to hearing feedback is another aspect of communication that is feedback-centric. There is two-way communication. By giving them a proper communication channel, the leader demonstrates their regard for and appreciation of the views and opinions of others.

Having the ability to handle current problems and avoid new ones between oneself and others, as well as across one’s entire group or organization, is another aspect of developing and maintaining relationships.

A powerful visionary

The aims and objectives of a group or a whole organization are set by the leader. However, leaders should always create goals and objectives that are realistic and achievable, regardless of the management and leadership styles they employ.

According to B. Steinmann, H. J. P. Klug, and G. W. In Maier’s research, a transformational leader must be able to convince his or her followers that the aims and objectives they have established are not only significant but also attainable.

Further findings revealed that a leader can influence the job happiness, organizational commitment, and proactive behavior of his or her team by being able to convey significant and achievable goals and objectives.


A people-centric leader considers how their team members desire to work and what motivates them to complete tasks and contribute to the achievement of the group’s or organization’s overall goals and objectives.

The findings of the study by H. Khan et al. demonstrated that a leader can motivate followers to reach anticipated or noteworthy results by learning about them, especially by recognizing and attending to their unique needs and problems.

Additionally, a different study by F. Y. Lai et al. demonstrated that transformational leadership involves the workforce and that employees with who their leaders are involved are more likely to get fully immersed in their work and deliver superior results.


You would be a fool to believe that once you start your mission to transform a firm, everything will be simple and handed to you on a silver platter. Your vision will fade if you aren’t flexible and equipped to handle unforeseen difficulties, and you won’t be the effective leader you are capable of being.

A flexible leader can overcome obstacles and can see the wider picture of what needs to be done. Giving your team difficult tasks to try and finish will even help them become more adaptive so that everyone will be prepared for challenges.

Natural Collaboration

Another distinguishing trait of a transformational leader is that he or she does not operate ilinearly setting goals and objectives and delegating duties and other responsibilities without seeking input. This leader engages in intellectual humility and believes in the value of teamwork.

More particular, this leader encourages his or her followers to get involved in problem-solving and the creation of goals and objectives since they are naturally collaborative. In essence, he or she encourages everyone to become leaders rather than followers.

Anyone can be inspired to engage by someone who believes in the advantages of teamwork. To achieve this, a culture of open communication must be created and nurtured in which everyone is encouraged to contribute ideas.


You must possess some kind of inspiration to win people around to your cause, fitting with the idea of leading and motivating others. Your capacity to inspire others will be reflected in their willingness to act, whether it’s through a carefully thought-out plan that makes sense or a passionate speech about what could be.

Being the best version of yourself possible and setting an example for others is sometimes all that is required to inspire others. People will watch your behavior and attempt to imitate it to be like you.


It does not follow that everyone will instantly follow you and do what you say just because you are the leader. To use transformational leadership effectively and achieve results, you must be attentive to the needs and desires of others.

Regard for one another will result from being respectful of others, and this respect will endure long after your business has changed. When people feel that their leader has their best interests and welfare in mind, they are considerably more likely to follow them.

Related: 12 Characteristics of Transformational Leadership

5 examples of Transformational Leadership

5 examples of Transformational Leadership

1. Jeff Bezos (Amazon)

As a recently rediscovered 1999 interview with the Amazon founder proves, Jeff Bezos has always understood that a successful business is about focusing on the customer. Indeed, despite pushback by the reporter in the clip, Bezos offers a daring vision of what the world’s largest online retailer would eventually become – and how he would deliver it. In many ways, Amazon is the perfect model of transformational leadership and shows that by building on a series of short-term goals (the company started as a bookseller, after all), it is possible to achieve things on a grander scale.

2. Billy Beane (Major League Baseball)

In terms of transforming long-held beliefs about structures and processes, Billy Beane, the executive vice president of the Oakland Athletics baseball franchise, is undoubtedly a pioneer. By applying advanced analytics techniques to the Athletics’ recruitment strategy – a now-legendary method known as ‘Moneyball’ – Beane and his fellow coaches were able to identify potential signings that had been overlooked or underappreciated by their rivals. Credited with changing attitudes in the professional sports industry and revolutionising the application of data analytics, Beane’s techniques also offer potential uses in the business world, too.

3. John D Rockefeller (Standard Oil)

As one of the most important and influential industrialists of the 19th and 20th centuries, John D Rockefeller was undoubtedly a transformational leader. His investments in kerosene ended the country’s reliance on whaling, while he consolidated and transformed the US’fledgling oil and gas industry. Although regularly termed a robber baron, Rockefeller was an undoubtedly successful employer, too, with his philanthropy an early example of corporate social responsibility in action.

4. Ross Perot (Electric Data Systems)

Success in both the public and private sectors, Ross Perot made his initial mark in 1962 by establishing Electric Data Systems (EDS), a repair company for computer systems. Utilizing the hardware knowledge gained from his time as an IBM salesman, Perot placed immense trust in his employees, extending them sufficient autonomy to make smart decisions that satisfied his customers – a revolutionary approach at the time. By proving that in a technical market, the top-down approach to business might be insufficient, the company became a huge success; Perot sold EDS to General Motors for $2.6m in 1984.

5. Reed Hastings (Netflix)

Although it started as a mail-order DVD service to rival the then-market leader, Blockbuster, Netflix is now a multi-billion-dollar subscription-based entertainment service. In addition to leasing previously produced content, it creates its original productions – an impressive feat given Hastings’ background as a software engineer. Yet while Hastings’ foresight may have revolutionized the viewing habits of millions of people around the world, perhaps his greatest achievement is his management style. For instance, Netflix employees are given unlimited vacation time – on the condition that they deliver results. Rather than micromanaging and having warm bodies in uncomfortable seats, the company instead focuses on total autonomy for workers, allowing them unprecedented independence in exchange for a market-leading and generation-defining product.

4 elements of Transformational Leadership

They have a charismatic appeal. But charisma alone is insufficient for changing the way an organization operates. For bringing major changes, transformational leaders must exhibit the following four factors:

4 elements of Transformational Leadership

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Element 1: Idealized influence

This speaks to leaders best exerting their influence within a group. When a leader is practicing “idealized influence,” it means they are deeply respected by their team and provide a sense of vision and belonging long-term. Their teams tend to understand the long-term objectives of both that team and the bigger organization. These leaders are, essentially, role models.

Element 2: Intellectual stimulation

This is about the creation of an open and diverse environment so that employees can propose different, innovative, or even “off-the-wall” ideas that might someday represent a new best practice or revenue stream. It’s the freedom to explore and be curious under a specific leader. 

Element 3: Inspirational motivation

Leaders practicing inspirational motivation drive true morale and accountability in their teams, but it’s not fear-based accountability (i.e. being scared of messing up a project). It’s based on a personalized approach, meaning the leader knows what motivates each person on the team, and then the leader digs down and works directly with each direct report to motivate both individual and group goals. 

Element 4: Individualized consideration 

This also speaks to a personalized approach, and those practicing transformational leadership along this continuum create diverse, supportive environments for their teams. Many leadership articles of the last few years have talked about Google’s Project Aristotle, or its quest to build the perfect team.

While they didn’t quite hit that goal, what they landed on was “psychological safety,” or the idea that differing viewpoints and individual connections back to work can all find respect in one team. A transformational leader helps teams achieve that across four elements. 

Advantages of Transformational Leadership 

Advantages of Transformational Leadership 

1. Transformative leadership reduces the expense of turnover.

Employee retention is more common for transformational leaders than for other styles of leadership. Additionally, they can keep more clients. That’s because this leadership style necessitates charisma. The goal of transformational leadership is to simultaneously address the demands of the organization and one’s own needs. As a result, everyone on the team is more likely to believe that they play a particular function inside the company, which keeps them engaged.

2. It is a management approach that involves the whole person.

Because they strive to satiate personal desires, transformational leaders can increase the productivity of their followers. This leadership style is very adept at identifying followers’ wants and desires. Followers become completely driven to strive toward what they believe to be a just cause when deployed in decisive or heroic ways.

3. Change is enacted and managed by transformational leaders.

Organizations and brands must be willing to adapt over time to grow and improve. The best leadership approach available to enlist others in newly launched initiatives is transformational leadership. They already have faith in the procedure, so they can market the necessary adjustments, enhancements, or expansion. They implement the improvements themselves, which motivates others to follow suit. The leader, the followers, and the organization can eventually realize their full potential when this process is carried out properly.

4. It is possible to quickly create new corporate visions.

. It is possible to quickly create new corporate visions.

A fresh vision is successfully incorporated into the circumstance by transformational leaders. They are adept at spotting holes or issues in a vision’s development, which enables them to rapidly make revisions or suggestions to fix the problem. The adoption of the new vision then swiftly filters down the organizational hierarchy to bring everyone on board since their charisma helps to sell the morality of the vision to their followers.

5. Enthusiastic leaders foster transformation.

Enthusiasm spreads easily. When you witness someone enjoying fun, you naturally want to join them. When followers see their leader succeeding in pursuing a novel idea or girl, they aspire to succeed in similar ways. Because of their excitement, transformational leaders can inspire others to be enthusiastic. As a result, there is an increase in team morale, decreased follower turnover, and increased productivity.

6. It promotes lifelong learning and growth.

Beyond pursuing a long-term objective or vision, transformational leaders go beyond that. Additionally, they strive to become more effective both for themselves and their followers. One of the best leadership philosophies for getting people interested in this job’s learning curve is this one. These leaders try to develop a healthy workplace culture, offer tailored learning assistance, and pique their workers’ intellectual curiosity. They often get more performance and engagement from their staff as a result.

7. Effective communicators are transformational leaders.

Effective communicators are transformational leaders.

Lack of team communication is one of the main problems businesses have with overall productivity. Team members cannot be productive if they are not properly informed of their responsibilities, expectations, or project requirements. Transformational leaders are compelled to communicate well because of their position. To keep their followers focused on the vision or objective being pursued, they must offer regular feedback to their followers. The success of this leadership style is all but impossible without this communication.

Related: Important communication skills for managers

8. It instantly improves demoralizing circumstances.

Transformational leaders are frequently employed by businesses that have been suffering for a while to improve morale and alter the environment. Others are encouraged and inspired to succeed by passion, enthusiasm, and high levels of energy. The transformative leader is best able to help the team break out of a rut whenever apathy is prevalent in the workplace.

9. Transformational leaders are mindful of relationships.

Transformational leaders are mindful of relationships.

The goal of the transformational leader is to continuously develop a strong community within their network of supporters. They realize that a solid and positive relationship is at the heart of every commercial transaction, which is why. This strategy eliminates the fragmented ties between individuals, teams, or divisions and motivates more customers to continue doing business with a company for ongoing purchases. The transformative leader can eradicate any unhealthiness that may exist within their area of influence when present over an extended period.

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