Transformational Leadership

There are a number of different theories on leadership and one of the most popular in recent years is the transformational style of strategic leadership and coaching of teams.

This effective leadership method has developed as many companies strive to stay ahead of constantly shifting conditions in their industries and with the advent of technology in so many fields.

The History of Transformational Leadership

These leadership theories were originally developed by James Macgregor Burns in 1978.

According to Burns, this form of leadership involves a system where:

"leaders and followers help each other to advance to a higher level of morale and motivation".

Later, in 1985, Bernard Bass added to Burns' original ideas with the idea that the degree of transformation in a leader is directly measured by how he influences his followers. By being transformational, a leader breeds trust, loyalty and respect in a team.

In addition to driving a team with charisma and consideration for individuals on that team, they strive to find new ways to accomplish existing goals - identifying threats and developing new opportunities in response to them.

Understanding the Transformational Leadership Style

There are four components generally considered part of the transformational leadership style. These four components include:

  • Individualised consideration as a coach for team members.
  • Intellectual stimulation to nurture creativity from the team.
  • Inspirational motivation to get the most out of individuals.
  • Idealised influence to gain trust and instil pride for all concerned.

Here are these components in more detail.

Individualised Consideration

A leader must see to the needs of his team members by always acting as a mentor and coach by listening and addressing concerns that they may have. Instead of remaining aloof and separate from your employees, you must show empathy and be supportive of them when they need your assistance. You must also celebrate individual contributions from team members, remaining vigilant of each person's accomplishments.

Intellectual Stimulation

A leader should push the limit for taking risks, asking for ideas from team members, and tossing aside conventions. This approach will not only encourage your team but stimulate creativity in ways that few other leadership styles can manage. Individuals with strong creative thoughts will be nurtured in this environment - making it very popular for software developers and creative fields.

Inspirational Motivation

A leader should be able to articulate what they see in their team in a way that is inspiring and motivational. Being able to challenge your team members and watch them follow through is vital to being successful.

Idealised Influence

A leader needs to gain respect and trust and instil pride in their team members for the work they are doing. This ideal is a hard role to take on for many leaders who feel that pride should already be there. But, by showcasing good ideas and showing pride in your own work, you'll be able to breed this mentality in the workers who look to you for guidance.

Putting Transformational Leadership into Practice

The perfect transformational leader is someone that can see their team not as a tool to be used, but as a conglomerate of individuals whose input is invaluable. When you're able to respectfully listen to what each person in your team needs and wants to achieve, you're able to transform their doubts and worries into confidence.

In a world where the individual has become a far more powerful piece of society and where change is not just probable, but imminent, having a transformational leader who can grip the reins and take control of the direction of a company is vital. To be that person, you must be comfortable with yourself and those who follow you. Only then can you make the changes that are needed to transform your workplace.

Top 10 Transformational Companies

The chart below shows those companies where they excelled in developing new business models over their peers.

Company CEO Services New business as a % of total Stock Price CAGR
1: Amazon Jeff Bezos Cloud Services 10% 30%
1=: Netflix Reed Hastings Video Streaming 80% 45%
3: Priceline Glenn Fogel Travel 25% 34%
4: Apple Tim Cook iPhone 80% 29%
5: Aetna Mark Berolini Health care 40% 25%
6: Adobe Shantanu Naraven Digital Marketing 45% 24%
7: DaVita Kent Thiry Patient Care 30% 10%
8: Microsoft Satya Nadella Cloud services 32% 12%
9: Danone Emmanuel Faber Nutrition 29% 3%
10: ThyssenKrupp Heinrich Hiesinger Industrial 47% 4%

Source: Harvard Business Review

Further Reading on This Subject

To learn more, look at the following resources:

  • St. Thomas University takes you through the theory, leadership styles and biographies of some key influencers.
  • INSEAD takes you through a journey of some of the unconventional habits of transformational leaders.