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What Is Transformational Leadership?

How Transformational Leadership Inspire

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Transformational leaders inspire followers

Transformational leaders inspire greater performance in group members.

Image: aldomurillo / iStockPhoto

Have you ever been in a group where someone took control of the situation by conveying a clear vision of the group's goals, a marked passion for the work, and an ability to make the rest of the group feel recharged and energized? This person just might be what is called a transformational leader.

Transformational leadership is a type of leadership style that can inspire positive changes in those who follow. Transformational leaders are generally energetic, enthusiastic, and passionate. Not only are these leaders concerned and involved in the process; they are also focused on helping every member of the group succeed as well.

The History of Transformational Leadership

The concept of transformational leadership was initially introduced by leadership expert and presidential biographer James MacGregor Burns. According to Burns, transformational leadership can be seen when "leaders and followers make each other to advance to a higher level of moral and motivation." Through the strength of their vision and personality, transformational leaders are able to inspire followers to change expectations, perceptions, and motivations to work towards common goals.

Later, researcher Bernard M. Bass expanded upon Burns' original ideas to develop what is today referred to as Bass’ Transformational Leadership Theory. According to Bass, transformational leadership can be defined based on the impact that it has on followers. Transformational leaders, Bass suggested, garner trust, respect, and admiration from their followers.

The Components of Transformational Leadership

Bass also suggested that there were four different components of transformational leadership.

  1. Intellectual Stimulation – Transformational leaders not only challenge the status quo; they also encourage creativity among followers. The leader encourages followers to explore new ways of doing things and new opportunities to learn.

  2. Individualized Consideration – Transformational leadership also involves offering support and encouragement to individual followers. In order to foster supportive relationships, transformational leaders keep lines of communication open so that followers feel free to share ideas and so that leaders can offer direct recognition of the unique contributions of each follower.

  3. Inspirational Motivation – Transformational leaders have a clear vision that they are able to articulate to followers. These leaders are also able to help followers experience the same passion and motivation to fulfill these goals.

  4. Idealized Influence – The transformational leader serve as a role model for followers. Because followers trust and respect the leader, they emulate this individual and internalize his or her ideals.

Observations

In their classic text, Transformational Leadership, authors Bass and Riggio explained:
"Transformational leaders...are those who stimulate and inspire followers to both achieve extraordinary outcomes and, in the process, develop their own leadership capacity. Transformational leaders help followers grow and develop into leaders by responding to individual followers' needs by empowering them and by aligning the objectives and goals of the individual followers, the leader, the group, and the larger organization."

Researchers have found that this style of leadership can have a positive effect on the group. "Research evidence clearly shows that groups led by transformational leaders have higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders," explained psychologist and leadership expert Ronald E. Riggio in an article appearing on the Psychology Today website. The reason, he suggests, is that transformational leaders believe that their followers can do their best, leading members of the group to feel inspired and empowered.

References

Bass,B. M. (1985). Leadership and Performance. N. Y,: Free Press.

Bass, B. M. & Riggio, R. E. (2008). Transformational Leadership. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. N.Y: Harper and Raw.

Riggio, R.E. (2009, March 24). Are you a transformational leader. Psychology Today. Found online at http://blogs.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/200903/are-you-transformational-leader

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