Transformational Leadership was first coined by the historian and political scientist, James MacGregor Burns in the late 1970s, and was used to distinguish the inspirational leadership style from Transactional Leadership.
Transformational Leadership is about transforming the business and changing the organisation’s culture.
In sharp contrast, Transactional Leadership, which takes on a directive leadership style, is essentially concerned with processes and day-to-day operations management.
The Transformational Leader
But the transformational leader is interested both in the individual and the team. Their intention is to empower people so they may reach their full potential, to improve their skills and abilities, and gain confidence in their unique talents and values.
And, as a consequence, the leader’s influence is strengthened by their interest in the people they serve … more on this later.
So, Transformational Leadership is about the leader connecting with people to inspire positive change.
It is the transformational leader who makes great efforts to understand someones abilities, skills and needs, and then offers coaching and mentoring to help them to succeed in their particular situation.
For the team, the transformational leader agrees common values and beliefs, and encourages people to reach shared goals.
Transformational leadership is about creating leadership teams.
Transformational Leadership — A Definition
Perhaps one of the best definitions of Transformational Leadership is by Terry Anderson in the book Transforming Leadership: Equipping Yourself and Coaching Others to Build the Leadership Organisation*:
Transforming Leadership is vision, planning, communication and creative action which has a positive underlying effect on a group of people around a clear set of values and beliefs, to accomplish a clear set of measurable goals. This transforming approach simultaneously impacts the personal development and corporate productivity of all involved.
We learn that Transformational Leadership has a truly profound effect on the confidence, enthusiasm and performance of people, teams and the organisation.
So, if this is Transformational Leadership, what makes a transforming leader?
Stick with me and I’ll explain …
Seven Characteristics of the Transformational Leader
In a nutshell, the transforming leader is excited by the challenges of leading high performing teams. The transformational leader is a role model.
Transformational leaders are important because they make choices that most other leaders would not. – Joseph Nye
And, they publicly display the following leadership characteristics:
- They clearly see themselves as change agents.
- They are courageous.
- They believe in people.
- They are driven by a strong set of values.
- They are lifelong learners.
- The can cope with complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty.
- They are visionaries.
Transformational leaders grow high performing teams. Teams with higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders.
Why is this?
Quite simply, because the transformational leader has positive expectations for the team and believes that people want to do their best.
As a consequence, the transformational leader inspires, empowers and encourages followers to perform to the best of their abilities. And, because they care about their followers, their influence increases.
Are you a transformational leader?
Creative Commons images courtesy Sid Mosdell.