Transformational Style of Leadership

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What is Transformational Leadership?

Transformational Leadership, like the concept of transformational learning, is a theory that was developed in the 1960s and 1970s by scholars such as James McGregor Burns (1978), Warren Bennis (1985) and Bernard Bass.

Transformational leadership is an approach to leadership which focuses on inspiring and enabling those who are led to transcend their own limitations and motivations in order to produce lasting change in the organization. It goes beyond traditional theories of leadership because it rejects transactional relationships between leaders and followers by emphasizing principle-centered philosophies of ethical behavior for both leaders and followers.

In essence, it attempts to unite loyalty from followers with inspiration from leaders in order to foster sustainable development within an organization or system.

“A leader can no more give people motivation than a dietitian can give people food. He can provide the environment and occasion for them to motivate themselves.” – Kenneth Blanchard.

A transformational leader goes beyond the call of duty by taking initiative, inspiring others, changing behavior patterns and building an inspirational vision for change.

Transformational leaders believe that their job goes beyond simply managing the organization; instead they see it as part of their responsibility to guide their employees towards higher levels of consciousness.

However, this is not about “touchy feely” concepts like love or spirituality; this is about creating an atmosphere where people feel valued and respected enough to want to do good work on their own accord.

In order to be a successful follower within a transformational system one must have emotional strength, a willingness to push the envelope and a strong sense of self.

Transformational followers do not need to be told what to do or how to accomplish their goals; instead they are inspired by the vision of the leader and feel emotionally driven towards achieving it.

They are aware of both their limitations and their strengths so they know when to step in and “save the day” when something needs to get done. Rather than taking control in an attempt to prove themselves, transformational followers embrace their role as part of the team.

This is why leadership within this system relies on empowering others through inspirational motivation which focuses on tapping into intrinsic desires rather than exploiting external forces like money or power.

Many studies have shown that individual creativity increases in systems where leaders practice transformational leadership.

One of the most compelling stories illustrating this theory comes from Bernard Bass who tells about how one professor was able to increase student grades by nearly fifty percent by simply altering his teaching style.

The professor decided to stop focusing on testing and memorization, instead creating an environment where students were encouraged to be free thinking individuals who could think outside the box.

Not only did test scores rise; it turned out that this shift in teaching style also increased attendance rates and overall enjoyment among the students. (Bass, 1990)

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu.

Although this example may seem fairly trivial in relation to larger scale goals, it is important to understand that anything can happen when people are inspired.

This system of leadership will likely not work for everyone everywhere but within the right context it can be incredibly effective.

The main component linking all successful transformational leaders seems to be an intuitive understanding of human nature coupled with a willingness to build trust by empowering others through inspiration rather than domination.

Leaders who employ this style of leadership will likely achieve more personal satisfaction and success within their field due simply to having followers who are willing to step up when they are needed most.


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What are the advantages of transformational leadership?

–  The most important advantage to transformational leadership is the strong sense of community it creates. Transformational leaders are capable of bringing out the best in their followers by inspiring them through a shared vision.

People who follow these leaders say they feel connected and engaged, often staying at their job longer than they otherwise would have because they feel so invested in the company’s mission.

– Another advantage to transformational leadership is that it seems to encourage individual creativity among followers. By creating space for employees to follow their instincts and feel free from judgment, these leaders allow people to become more engaged in their work and come up with higher quality ideas. Transformational leadership can be a great tool for bringing creativity back into the workplace.

– Finally, these leaders tend to be incredibly passionate about their work and this passion manages to trickle down throughout the organization creating a fun and dynamic work environment where people enjoy spending time with one another outside of work.

This is largely due to the aforementioned sense of community that transformational leadership brings.

What are the disadvantages of transformational leadership?

– The major disadvantage to this form of leadership is that it requires a huge amount of trust. People who attempt to take control in an overly domineering fashion run into problems when they create fear in their followers and then try to inspire them using outside forces like money or power.

– This strategy often results in a parasitic relationship and can actually cause people to feel resentful toward the leader.

– Transformational leaders must make themselves vulnerable by opening up about their flaws, failures, and weaknesses. If they are not genuine or truthful with their followers they will lose their trust and the effectiveness of transformational leadership will be lost.

Although this leadership style can be effective it can also be quite dangerous if used incorrectly. It is important to understand that just because someone has shown signs of being a great leader in one aspect of their life does not mean they will automatically be able to transition into being an effective transformational leader.

Trust is the cornerstone of success for this form of leadership and without it followers will not be able to follow their leader very far.

In order to be a transformational leader one must have great capacity for empathy, an understanding of humility, and a genuine desire to serve others.

People who employ this style of leadership should understand that they should put the needs of other first before their own.

A transformational leader must also have a clear vision for the future of the organization and be able to convey this vision so that others can see it as well.

This is especially important if their followers are from different cultural backgrounds as they may require more explanation in order for them to understand exactly where their leader wants to take them.

What are the four elements of transformational leadership?

·          Inspirational motivation: focusing on tapping into intrinsic desires rather than exploiting external forces like money or power.

·          Intellectual stimulation: creating an environment where people feel valued and respected enough to want to do good work on their own accord.

·          Individualized consideration: giving each individual the tools they need in order to be more effective without making them interchangeable within the system.

·          Inspirational motivation: focusing on tapping into intrinsic desires rather than exploiting external forces like money or power.

Visionary/inspiring, idealistic, inspirational leader who is persuasive, passionate and has exceptional speaking skills; able to excite others about why they should commit themselves fully to achieving a particular goal – what it will provide for individuals, society or humanity.

Synergistic style of leadership that uses the combined power and skillsets of a diverse set of individuals to achieve goals that an individual leader would be unable to do by themselves.

Leaders inspire others by creating a vision for how the world could be better if everyone is able to work together in harmony towards mutually beneficial goals. Inspiring others involves engaging in storytelling, painting compelling pictures about what will happen in the future when people put their hearts into an idea or goal – why it matters beyond a monetary level.

Focuses on pathos (emotions) more than logos (logic) – will appeal to people’s emotional responses rather than trying to convince them with reason or cold hard facts.

Could be seen as manipulative but it is also the best way to convince people they are working towards a common goal.

Requires both charismatic features (positive energy, appearance of being an approachable/honest individual) and functional features (knowledge, experience, ability to connect with others on an emotional level).

Good transformational leader combines these elements with enthusiastic/inspiring behavior that puts forth their own effort into achieving success by combining vision and action. Good follower will see this commitment and want to emulate the same kind of work ethic that has allowed them to achieve success in the past.

What is an example of transformational leadership?

Nelson Mandela was able to inspire South Africans during the 1994 elections by speaking about a better future for everyone. He created hope that things would improve by promoting equality and fairness between races – allowing everyone to be seen as equal under the law instead of being victims of discrimination. This speech is an example of transformational leadership because he used inspiring words to encourage South Africans not only to vote but also to believe in themselves again after years of feeling oppressed.

What are some potential pitfalls or drawbacks associated with transformational leadership? How can these be addressed?

High levels of individual motivation are required for this style to work properly. Without people believing in their own ability to contribute, they will likely feel demotivated and start to slack off. This can be reduced by having a clear vision for success that outlines the changes people will see once they have been through the transition from chaos/uncertainty to order.

What is transactional leadership?

Transactional Leadership:  focuses on giving rewards or incentives in exchange for good performance, where as transformational leadership focuses on influencing employee’s motivation and self-direction.

How does transactional leadership compare with transformational leadership? Which is more effective? Why?

Transformational Leadership: More effective because it targets intrinsic, not extrinsic motivation – so even if there are no tangible rewards the work still has the potential to bring fulfillment since employees feel like they’re doing it for themselves.

What is a potential pitfall of transactional leadership? How can this be addressed?

Employees might focus on gaining rewards and not work as hard if there is no incentive – like receiving a bonus or prize. This could be lessened by implementing challenging projects for workers to motivate them which will increase their feeling of accomplishment when it has been successfully completed.

What are the similarities between charismatic and transformational leadership:

Charismatic Leaders: Emphasizes magnetic personalities, persuasiveness, and good public speaking abilities – could be considered the “ideal” leader because everyone wants someone who can convince them to work harder or follow a set of goals.

Transformational Leadership: The main focus is on inspiration so these leaders will use this ability to get people to work together towards achieving a unified goal.

Charismatic Leaders: More about charisma than actual ability to lead – so they might not follow through on their performance despite having all of the traits that allow them to be successful leaders. Can come across as “fake” or insincere and come off as not understanding how hard of a transition this will actually be.

Transformational Leadership: Focuses on the power of words to create change – helping people believe in themselves and achieve something that seemed impossible/unattainable beforehand. This means they need to really get into the mindset of their followers and get them to trust them – most likely by sharing a close personal connection.