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Transformational leadership

Transformational leadership styles focus on team-building, motivation, and collaboration with employees at different levels of an organization to accomplish change for the better.

Transformational leaders set goals and incentives to push their subordinates to higher performance levels while providing opportunities for personal and professional growth for each employee.

Ultimately, transformational leaders can develop a very powerful influence over followers.

4 factors of transformational leaders Inspiration Motivation, Intellectual Stimulation, Idealized Influence, and Individualized Consideration

Transformational Leadership may be found at all levels of the organization, teams, departments, divisions, and organization as a whole.

Such leaders are visionary, inspiring, daring, risk-takers and thoughtful thinkers. They have a charismatic appeal.

However, charisma alone is insufficient for changing the way an operator.

Transformational leaders transform the personal values of followers to support the vision and goals of the organization by fostering an environment where relationships can be formed and by establishing a climate of trust in which visions can be shared.

Bass and Avolio (Bass, 1985a; Bass & Avolio, 1990) developed Burns’ (1978) ideas and posited the formal concept of transformational leadership.

Their work built not only upon the contribution of Burns but also those made by Bennis and Nanus (1985), Tichy and Devanna (1986), and others.

Bass (1990b) specified that transformational leadership “occurs when leaders broaden and elevate the interests of their employees when they generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group, and when they stir their employees to look beyond their self-interest for the good of the group” (p. 21).

Bass (1990a) stipulates that this transcending beyond self-interest is for the “group, organization, or society” (p. 53).

In essence, transformational leadership is a process of building commitment to organizational objectives and then empowering followers to accomplish those objectives (Yukl, 1998). The result, at least in theory, is enhanced follower performance.

Burns (1978) considered leaders to be either transformational or transactional, while others view leadership as a continuum with transactional leadership at one end and transformational leadership at the other.

Bass (1990a) said that transactional leadership occurs when leaders “exchange promises of rewards and benefits to subordinates for the subordinates’ fulfillment of agreements with the leader”.

The transactional leader, according to Daft (2002), recognizes followers’ needs and then defines the exchange process for meeting those needs. Both the leader and the follower benefit from the exchange transaction.

Transactional leadership is based on bureaucratic authority, focuses on task completion, and relies on rewards and punishments.

Transformational leadership differs substantially from transactional leadership. It is concerned more about progress and development. Furthermore, transformational leadership enhances the effects of transactional leadership on followers.

Avolio, Waldman, and Yammarino (1991) established four primary behaviors that constitute transformational leadership:

For bringing major changes, transformational leaders must exhibit the following four:

Four Elements of Transformational Leadership

1. Inspiration Motivation.

2. Intellectual Stimulation.

3. Idealized Influence.

4. Individualized Consideration.

Inspiration Motivation

The foundation of transformational leadership is the promotion of consistent vision, mission, and a set of values to the members. Their vision is so compelling that they know what they want from every interaction.

Transformational leaders inspire and motivate others by “providing meaning and challenge to their followers’ work”. The spirit of the team is “aroused” while “enthusiasm and optimism are displayed”.

The transformational leader builds relationships with followers through interactive communication, which forms a cultural bond between the two participants and leads to a shifting of values by both parties toward common ground.

The leader inspires followers to see the attractive future state while communicating expectations and demonstrating a commitment to goals and a shared vision. Idealized influence and inspirational motivation are usually combined to form charismatic-inspirational leadership.

Intellectual Stimulation

Such leaders encourage their followers to be innovative and creative.

They encourage new ideas from their followers and never criticize them publicly for the mistakes committed by them.

Transformational leaders stimulate their followers’ efforts “to be innovative and creative by questioning assumptions, reframing problems, and approaching old situations in new ways”.

Followers’ mistakes are not publicly criticized and creativity is openly encouraged.

Transformational leaders solicit their followers’ ideas and creative solutions to problems, thereby including followers in problem-solving.

The intellectually stimulating leader encourages followers to try new approaches but emphasizes rationality.

Idealized Influence

They believe in the philosophy that a leader can influence followers only when he practices what he preaches. The leaders act as role models that followers seek to emulate.

Such a leader always wins the trust and respect of their followers through their action.

Idealized influence is the charismatic element of transformational leadership in which leaders become role models who are admired, respected, and emulated by followers.

Consequently, followers demonstrate a high degree of trust in such leaders. Idealized influence in leadership also involves integrity in the form of ethical and moral conduct.

The development of a shared vision is an integral component of the idealized, transformational leader’s role.

It helps others to look at the futuristic state while inspiring acceptance through the alignment of personal values and interests to the collective interests of the group’s purposes.

Transformational leaders are also willing to take and share risks with followers.

Individualized Consideration

Leaders act as mentors to their followers and reward them for creativity and innovation.

The followers are treated differently according to their talents and knowledge.

The transformational leader disburses personal attention to followers based on the individual follower’s needs for achievement and growth.

To do this, the leader acts as a mentor or coach developing followers in a supportive climate to “higher levels of potential”.

The considerate leader recognizes and demonstrates acceptance of the followers’ differences in terms of needs and desires. By doing this, the transformational leader fosters two-way communication through effective listening.

The leader develops followers by delegating tasks and then unobtrusively monitoring those tasks–checking to see if additional support or direction is needed.

The net effect of individualized consideration and other transformational leadership behaviors is the empowerment of followers.

Related: Transactional & Transformational Leadership Styles Needed for Organization Success


A transformational leader goes beyond managing day-to-day operations and crafts strategies for taking his company, department or work team to the next level of performance and success.

For example, several research studies have documented the power of transformational leadership in establishing value congruency and trust.

Followers respect and trust transformational leaders, so they confirm their values to those of the leaders and yield power to them.

The transformational leader articulates the vision clearly and appealingly, explains how to attain the vision, acts confidently and optimistically, expresses confidence in the followers, emphasizes values with symbolic actions, leads by example, and empowers followers to achieve the vision.

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