The concept of transformational leadership has been a growing trend in business ever since it was first proposed by leadership expert and Pulitzer Prize-winning author James MacGregor Burns in 1978. He said that transformational leadership occurs when leaders and followers help each other reach higher levels of morality and motivation. Over the years, this model has been expanded and adapted, to the point where it is one of the most well known and popular theories in the field of leadership. As the name implies, this model has the potential to not only fundamentally change organizations, but change the lives of the people within them.
What is transformational leadership?
Transformational leadership consists of 4 main components:
1. Idealized Influence
The leader is a charismatic role model that followers look up to and admire because they practice what they preach.
2. Inspirational Motivation
The leader has a clear vision and effectively communicates it to inspire and motivate their followers.
3. Individualized Consideration
The leader has a personalized approach, taking the time to listen to each and every member of the team, and genuinely cares about their well-being.
4. Intellectual Stimulation
The leader challenges the status quo and encourages creativity and innovation, giving team members space and freedom to do what they do best.
With regards to components 1 and 2, the leader’s charisma and personality are critical elements that affect a person’s willingness to follow, and while some leaders seem to be blessed with a natural charisma that makes them almost instantly likeable, don’t lose hope if it doesn’t come as easy for you. Just remember that how you interact and relate to people are skills, and like any skill, it too can be learned and improved.
A clear vision is a must, and as a leader, you need to be able to recognize when change is needed and be willing to lead it… while at the same time being open to ideas. Transformational leaders are often more egalitarian, and make themselves available for followers to come directly to them with their thoughts and ideas, skipping the hierarchical chain of command that can needlessly slow down the process. This also helps to build a sense of trust and belonging to the leader and team are both working towards a cause, a clear vision, in a cooperative effort.
The role of transformational leadership is to help gain autonomy and freedom to fully explore ideas. Therefore, transformational leaders believe in the power of the people, and make their people’s success the team’s success, and vice versa, to inspire and motivate them to reach their full potential. A major factor in the success of this leadership style is it believes that given the autonomy and freedom to fully explore their ideas, people can often thrive. Sometimes rules and step-by-step processes, although beneficial in the sense that they provide a framework, can be the anathema of creativity and innovation because of their limiting nature.
Now, you may be asking yourself if you are a transformational leader. Here is a quick test developed by Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D (2009) that you can use to assess your transformational leadership traits:
- I would never require a follower to do something that I wouldn’t do myself.
- I have clear goals for my team.
- I find it comes naturally to inspire others.
- I celebrate the talents and successes of my followers.
- I am attentive when it comes to the personal needs of my followers.
- I challenge my followers to get out of their comfort zones.
- I believe that teamwork is the way to success.
- I encourage my followers to question their most basic way of thinking.
- Followers have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy are infectious.
Strong transformational leaders would agree with all of these statements, but even if you don’t, do not worry. Instead, use this test as a way to get inside the perspective of a transformational leader, to see how they think, and before you know it, you’ll soon be walking in those shoes.
Interested in learning more about transformational leadership? Carolyn Stern and the EI Experience team invite you to transform on one of their training courses.
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