What Makes Transformational Leaders Unique?

Transformational leaders inspire new ideas and foster adaptive change, not only in individual team members but also across the company.

When transformational leaders run an organization, people are more engaged and loyal. They also have a sense of ownership.

Transformational leaders create a culture of empowerment characterized by high levels of flexibility and autonomy. They encourage team members to find better ways to get the results they want instead of just following the steps they are given. 

One way to gain a better understanding of transformational leadership is to contrast it with transactional leadership. 

Transformational leaders rely on effective communication and positive reinforcement to inspire intrinsic motivation. Teams that are led by transformational leaders produce remarkable results, not because they have to, but because they want to.

On the other hand, transactional leaders motivate team members with rewards and punishment. Their primary focus is to get things done, not necessarily to help people grow and develop. So, they set up a work environment that tries to be as efficient as possible by having strict rules and routines. 

It may be necessary to adopt transactional leadership in some situations. But you can’t let this be your main way of leading if you want to build an organization that will stay relevant in our world, which is always changing.

What is transformational leadership?

The concept of transformational leadership was first introduced in 1973 by James V. Downton. But in 1978, a political scientist named James MacGregor Burns brought it into the mainstream. Burns is known for being a pioneer in the field of leadership. 

He said that transformational leadership is a two-way relationship where leaders and followers elevate one another to higher levels of morality and motivation. Transformational leaders appeal to higher ideals and model the kind of values that get followers attracted to them.

The concept of transformational leadership was further developed by Bernard M. Bass who identified four main components of this leadership model. These components are highlighted below.

Idealized influence

Transformational leaders influence others by their own example. They model the kind of behaviors that they expect from their team members. 

Through their transparency, authenticity, and commitment to a high performance standard, they win the trust and respect of team members. So, it’s easy for them to get team members to do what needs to be done without manipulation. [Click to tweet]

Intellectual stimulation

One of the distinguishing attributes of transformational leadership is its capacity to foster innovation as opposed to maintaining the status quo.

Transformational leaders create a workplace culture that encourages team members to expand their intellectual horizon, explore new possibilities and pursue opportunities for growth.

Inspirational motivation

A transformational leader communicates a compelling vision and helps team members to find their place in that vision, which gives them a sense of purpose.

This inspires a passionate commitment to the achievement of organizational goals. Transformational leaders and the people on their teams get personal satisfaction from working toward the company’s vision.

Individual consideration

As a transformational leader, it is important to nurture empowering relationships with your team members. You must value what each person brings to the table and help them reach their full potential. 

Transformational leaders create an environment that fosters autonomy and personal leadership. They adopt a whole-person paradigm that facilitates the development of individual team members.

Transformational leadership is different from other models of leadership because it is built on these four cornerstones that we have just considered.

6 traits of transformational leaders

Now that we have explored the fundamental components of transformational leadership, let us consider how this leadership model plays out in everyday life, especially at work. 

In other words, what traits or characteristics do you need to imbibe to become a transformational leader?

A transformational leader encourages team members to chart their own path.
Transformational leaders empower team members to chart their own path to success.

1. Readiness to entertain new ideas

Transformational leaders have the ability to see things from a different perspective because they are open-minded and innovative. They don’t just think about what is happening in their own industry but also in other industries that could offer valuable ideas.

These leaders are not afraid to take risks, which is why they are open to trying new things. They have the ability to see things from a different perspective.

Furthermore, transformational leaders embrace change and use it as an opportunity for growth. They know that change is inevitable, so they don’t try to resist it or fight against it. Instead, they use change as a way of improving themselves and their company.

2. Faith in team members

People need freedom and flexibility to come up with new ideas. Transformational leaders are aware of this. So they empower their team members to chart their own paths to success instead of following rigid rules.

3. Exemplary moral standards

Transformational leaders can inspire and motivate other people because they have high moral standards for themselves. These leaders set a good example for their followers by being morally upright, honest, trustworthy, and dependable.

4. Emotional intelligence

One of the critical attributes demonstrated by transformational leaders is emotional intelligence. This skill set includes self-awareness, empathy, and managing one’s own emotions. 

Research has found that 70% of people with high emotional intelligence have better relationships in their lives, and they are more likely to be successful as transformational leaders.

5. Altruistic disposition

Transformational leaders are driven by a genuine desire to help others. They are not out to simply attain personal gain. They care about their organizations and people.

For them, business is not just about the bottom line but also about the welfare of their team members. They coach and mentor their team members, helping them to make a difference in the world.

6. Proactiveness

In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey submits that highly effective people are proactive. This is also true for transformational leaders. They don’t shy away from difficult decisions. They act decisively instead of waiting to be acted upon.

Are you a transformational leader?

Transformational leaders are not born, they are made. The set of attributes and skills that set this kind of leaders apart can be learned by anyone. Are you willing to commit to the process?

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