When a person passionately takes control of a group and delivers a clear vision, outlines the group’s goals, and makes every team member feel appreciated, valued, and energized to achieve extraordinary results, that is a transformative leader.

Transformative leadership entails a style that instills positive changes in the followers. The leader focuses on inculcating confidence and promoting loyalty in the group to meet goals and objectives.

Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, and Steve Jobs are some recognizable figures who have delivered exceptional transformative leadership and changed lives.

You, too, can become a transformational leader and create valuable change among your followers. Here is an in-depth analysis of transformative leadership theory to help you become an exceptional transformational leader.

What is transformational leadership?

Transformative leadership theory is a new leadership paradigm where a leader, with their followers, works toward identifying changes needed in an organization or business setting, creates a vision through inspiration, and executes the changes as a team.

Transformational leadership improves followers’ motivation, morale, and productivity via several processes when practiced in its purest form.

These processes include encouraging followers to take greater ownership of their work, challenging them to take up their responsibilities with pride, and understanding their strengths and weaknesses so they can assign followers to tasks that maximize their performance. A transformational leader also connects the followers’ sense of identity to the organization’s mission.

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Transformational leadership history

Transformational leadership was introduced by James MacGregor Burns, a leadership expert, and presidential biographer. Burns explained that transformational leadership is noticed when leaders and their followers influence each other to advance to greater motivation and morals.

He believed that through the strength of vision and personality, a transformational leader could inspire followers to change their perceptions and expectations and motivate them toward common goals.

Bernard M. Bass later expanded the transformational leadership concept by Burns into what is referred to today as Bass’ transformational leadership theory.

According to Bass, transformational leadership is based on its impact on followers. He believes that transformational leaders gain their followers’ admiration, trust, and respect.

Components of transformational leadership

There are four elements of transformational leadership commonly known as the four Is. They include inspirational motivation, idealized influence, individual consideration, and intellectual stimulation.

When the four elements are combined, they help transformational leaders positively change their followers and enable them to achieve extraordinary results, as explained below:

  • Idealized influence

Idealized influence, also known as charisma influence, is an emotional aspect of leadership that describes how leaders operate as powerful role models for followers. The leaders’ behavior and personality are admired by their followers, who strive to emulate them. These people have a reputation for upholding the highest moral and ethical standards..

Their goal is to act morally. Such leaders are respected by their followers, who believe in them to guide them toward more significant achievements. They develop the organization’s vision and mission and are willing to collaborate with followers who would support them.

They communicate their ideas to the people to persuade them to carry out specific tasks since doing so will benefit the organization.

Followers’ assessments of leaders are based on their views of them, their behavioral expectations, and their observations of how the leaders interact with their subordinates and stand up for what they believe in, no matter the cost.

  • Inspirational motivation 

Inspirational motivation focuses on leaders with the zeal and inspiration to commit to a vision. By building a feeling of purpose, community, and teamwork, they inspire team members to support this vision.

However, the leader must communicate with clarity to achieve the goal. They should adapt their communication approach to the team’s demands. Leaders speak concisely and precisely so that their vision can be precise, understandable, engaging, and robust.

Clear communication offers direction and structure so that team members can complete tasks without getting lost. Before the job begins, leaders make a clear plan for the future and explain expectations.

In addition, leaders need to be happy and optimistic, igniting a room with excitement. Transformational leaders use these abilities to aim at long-term objectives and have the foresight to anticipate the minor roadblocks that might prevent this vision.

They are aware of minor things that have the potential to become bigger problems. Such leaders are intuitive about what moves their team and their goals forward. These behaviors inspire confidence in the leader and trust from their followers.

  • Individual consideration

The level to which a leader attends to each follower’s unique needs is referred to as individual consideration. Members are inspired by transformational leadership because it emphasizes how each person contributes to the overall organizational objective.

Individual consideration entails appreciating and acknowledging the respective members’ motives, needs, and desires. When leaders understand what drives each team member, they can create opportunities for specialized training.

The leadership trait enables team members to develop and learn in a setting where they are at ease. These leaders also portray emotional intelligence. Genuine compassion, understanding others’ needs, and promoting ongoing personal development are all examples of emotional intelligence.

When leaders consider their followers’ emotions, they can determine how to interact with them most effectively. They engage their followers and create a relationship based on trust. They serve as coaches or mentors and listen to their followers’ needs, demands, or complaints.

  • Intellectual stimulation

Intellectual stimulation brings out the creative and innovative side of the followers. It influences the followers’ behavior by introducing certain beliefs and values that followers should keep up with.

A transformational leader inspires followers to develop new concepts to deal with challenges they face in their line of duty. They unlock their follower’s ability to think independently and encourage them to come up with new ideas to solve the problem.

In other words, intellectual stimulation represents transformative leaders that provide a supportive environment and attentively consider each follower’s interests.

Leaders take on the roles of a coach and an advisor to assist their followers in improving in specific areas. They recognize followers’ potential and allocate tasks that motivate them to explore and realize their full potential.

Traits of a transformational leader

A transformational leader has the following characteristics:

  • Open to new thinking

Transformational leaders are always ready to innovate, no matter where it may occur. They continually look for chances to approach problems differently and are always open to fresh concepts, regardless of how they may arise.

  • Visionary

Transformational leaders use their acute awareness to look toward a better future and identify the minor challenges blocking efficient execution. They intuitively understand their company’s mission and vision to remain competitive. They are essential assets in an organization as they always look for the smallest detail that may derail its goals and objectives.

  • Ability to open people’s minds

Changing people’s perspectives on how things should operate is a trait a transformational leader must possess. Understanding the reasoning behind people’s present mindsets and how to influence them is crucial for accomplishing this objective.

These leaders can encourage others to venture beyond their comfort zone. However, to achieve this, they must comprehend other people’s viewpoints. They must also possess empathy and the capacity to instill confidence to influence other people’s minds.

  • Active listeners

Transformational leaders must inspire ideas, but most importantly, they must make their followers feel courageous enough to share them. Transformational leaders listen to ideas openly and reply without bias or conviction.

They promise to use active listening strategies to make their team members feel part of the process, appreciated, and valued. These techniques encourage the team members to express their ideas without self-censorship.

  • Risk takers

Without a doubt, there is neither a typical path to creativity nor a secure way leading through revolutionary transformation. Therefore, transformational leaders know that taking risks is a necessary component of their work. To find innovative approaches, they rely on their sense of curiosity.

They also conduct studies, consult experts, and take decisive actions when possibilities arise. Their risk-taking nature enables them to hone their business skills, build their leadership capacity, improve their communication skills, and prepare them for a fulfilling career.

  • Accepts responsibilities

Any leader who steps into an unknown area must be prepared to accept responsibility for all positive or negative consequences. If a leader expects others to bear the blame for a bad plan, no one will follow them with confidence. Transformative leaders must take accountabilities for all their actions, including approving other people’s ideas.

  • Trusts in team members

Engaging the entire team helps transformational leaders carry out a common goal. They use emotional intelligence to comprehend interpersonal dynamics and motivate individual and group performance. Transformational leaders are satisfied when the team succeeds by praising the group first and observing individuals rise to the challenge.

How to become a transformational leader

Every leader aspires to become a transformational leader to have a highly successful and fiercely loyal following. Here are five tips on how to become one:

  • Develop an inspiring vision

To become a transformational leader capable of inspiring those around you to achieve more outstanding results, you need to have an inspiring and fascinating vision for the future. You must set your team’s purpose and goals that every member will aspire to wake up every morning to achieve.

To do so, you must understand the capabilities and values of your followers. You must also understand the resources at your team’s disposal to achieve the goals and conduct an intelligent analysis to strategize how to execute the tasks.

  • Motivate your team

When you have an inspiring vision, your followers will appreciate your positive impact toward the common goal. However, to become a successful transformational leader, you must make them feel welcome to share their ideas. Although you have the final decision, their contribution and shared ideas mean an in-depth analysis of the problem and creative problem-solving solutions.

  • Build a trust-based relationship with your team

A transformational leader works hard toward helping their team achieve their goals. They understand that being a leader is a long-term process; hence, they need to build relationships and constantly earn their followers’ trust.

They do not employ the one-size-fits-all approach when connecting with people. Instead, they work in an individualized manner to develop a deep understanding of what motivates each member of the team. The strategy helps them offer customized leadership and guidance to enable each person to feel part of the process.

  • Be a role model

A transformational leader is someone others look up to and aspire to be like. They are trusted to make exceptional decisions and attract great minds into the organization.

They mean every word and are always ready to walk the talk and stick to the leadership rules. They do not step back on their decisions but face the challenges with courage and learn from their mistakes. In other words, they portray the qualities they want to see in their team members and work with integrity.

  • Develop a positive attitude

A transformational leader is the source of inspiration for their team. When they feel discouraged and fail to put up a fight, they pass the negativity down to the team members. Therefore, they should never break down even when things do not work as planned. They should express positivity and show optimism even as they remain as practical as possible.

To become a transformational leader, you must have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. You must believe in that vision to inspire and motivate those who believe in you. You must also focus on individual team members to understand their beliefs and capabilities so that you can help them achieve their goals. Transformative leadership also requires charisma and a person who can build relationships based on trust.