Undoubtedly, anybody that has held a job has encountered a variety of leaders. There are a multitude of methods that can be used to motivate or challenge employees. Some of these leadership styles are more effective than others.
Not every employee will respond well to a system of punishments and rewards, they may need something more to keep them motivated. A leader using the Transformational leadership style could provide this inspiration to do better.
Instead of using fear as a motivational tactic, Transformational leaders bring a more holistic and collaborative approach to their management. In this article, you will find all of the details you need to begin implementing this leadership style.
What is Transformational Leadership?
In many ways, Transformational leadership is the opposite of Transactional leadership. Where a transactional leader will say “do as I say, or else” a transformational leader will say “we are doing this, because.”
Transformational leaders possess a high level of charisma and empathy. They are able to bring out the best in people and strive for better working relations. This type of manager will garner a high level of respect and admiration from their followers.
People using this style of leadership have a goal, a vision, and it is towards this vision that they will push their followers to strive. They set a high standard of quality and expectation, but also trust in their employees abilities. It is the example set by the leader that will inspire people to work hard to achieve their shared vision.
These leaders are not interested in simply wielding power or motivating people with a fear of punishment. Through communication, they can impart their own enthusiasm and drive to others.
James MacGregor Burns is credited with developing the theory of transformational leadership. He outlined the parameters for this leadership style in his 1978 book titled “Leadership.”
Since Burns, many scholars have done further research and expanded on the concept of Transformational leadership.
Bernard M. Bass was one of these researchers, and in 1985 he identified four main components of Transformational leadership.
- Individualized consideration
Transformational leaders aim to identify and address the needs of each person following them. By building strong relationships with their employees, they can better understand their strengths and weaknesses.
- Intellectual stimulation
Creativity and out of the box thinking are highly encouraged by these leaders. Instead of viewing problems as obstacles, they will approach them as learning experiences. As a result, workers are given opportunities to learn and problem solve in new and different ways.
- Inspirational motivation
A person using Transformational leadership must be able to instill a sense of purpose in their followers. Often they will come together with the workgroup to generate a vision for the future. This optimism from the top can help inspire employees to perform at their highest level in order to achieve the goals of the group.
- Idealized influence
Transformational leaders guide by example. Holding themselves to high standards maintains the level of trust and respect that their staff has for them. This also carries an air of fairness. The leader is not asking their followers to do anything that they are not also expecting of themselves.
- The system in place needs to change
Transformational leaders aim to revitalize workplaces that have become stagnant or toxic. If there is already a healthy and functional work culture, this style of leadership can unnecessarily cause disruptions.
- The leader is a good communicator
The success of a transformational leader hinges on their ability to effectively communicate. They must be able to convey their plans for the company to the staff in a way that will motivate them to perform. It is also vital that these leaders foster a culture of open and honest communication within the organization. It takes a competent communicator to accomplish this.
- Excellent conflict resolution
Because these leaders focus on gaining a deep understanding of their followers, resolving conflicts between coworkers can be done more effectively. When all of the employees have respect for their manager, they will be more open to discussions that aim to solve issues within the workforce.
- Increased employee retention
People that feel important and valued at their job are more likely to stay for a longer period of time. Transformational leaders keep staff engaged. By building a vision for the future of the company together, these leaders encourage their followers to stick around to see the fruits of their labor. Seeing how their work fits into the bigger picture and being reminded that they are important will keep employees feeling a higher level of job satisfaction.
- Worker Empowerment
Transformational leaders know their staff, and as such, they are able to assign them tasks and work that will play to their strengths. They can also help them to improve in areas where they may not be as skilled. Having this as a management method can be incredibly empowering. With this sort of individualized attention, more team members will be capable of stepping into leadership roles themselves.
- Too much focus on the big picture
One possible drawback of this leadership style is that it is too focused on large scale goals. It may be difficult for staff to stay motivated when they are working towards far off, long term results. Too much emphasis on the future can lead to short term failures.
- Can cause employee burnout
Not every employee will be capable of meeting the expectations of these leaders. Having to constantly and consistently strive to be their best can result in workers getting tired. The amount of work required to meet long term goals may become overwhelming or feel unrealistic in the short term. This can be potentially demoralizing and cause employees to lose steam.
- Disagreements about goals
In the case that a transformational leader has set goals for the company that the workers do not agree with, this leadership style will not be effective. All members of the workforce must be unified in their desire to achieve. If a clear vision cannot be set for all to strive for, the staff will not be adequately inspired to do the work that is necessary.
How to Implement a Transformational Leadership Style
- Self reflection
While it is important for transformational leaders to identify strengths and weaknesses of their employees, they must also possess enough self awareness to recognize their own. Taking the time to reflect on how you behave in stressful situations, or the efficacy of your communication can be very helpful when it comes to this style of leadership.
- Open communication
It is essential for Transformational leaders to have open lines of communication with their followers. Setting regular intervals for feedback or meetings can allow a space for staff to voice concerns. The lofty goals of these leaders may not take some of the day to day struggles of employees into consideration. Building honest and trusting relationships with the workers can help offset some of the potential negative effects of this leadership style.
When to Avoid This Leadership Style
- New businesses
While there are many positive effects of this leadership style, it is mostly geared towards updating established work environments. It may be extremely difficult to use transformative leadership to build a brand new business culture. Its aim is to transform, not to create something new from the ground up.
- Bureaucratic workplaces
Not all businesses have the flexibility to foster a work culture that encourages creativity and collaboration. In fact, it may be inappropriate in a style of business that requires a more rigid hierarchical structure. If the main focus of the work is exclusively on short term, day to day work, setting big long term goals may be unrealistic.
- If the company cannot provide for their employees
Keeping people motivated to accomplish the lofty dreams of these leaders also requires that the company cares about the workers. A transformational leader at the helm of a company that has no interest in investing in its employees will feel hollow and demoralizing. People will not want to put in the extensive work required for a company that will not take care of them.
There are many fields of business where transformational leadership is well suited. Specifically, companies that want to encourage collaboration and creativity will benefit the most from it.
Entertainment, tech, and finance are a few examples of industries that can see significant positive results from this leadership style.
Companies within any sector that might see a drop in productivity as a result of employee boredom or apathy can benefit from transformational leadership. By utilizing it as a tool, managers can improve morale, excitement, and motivation among the workforce.
Famous Transformational Leaders
- Oprah Winfrey
As an iconic rags to riches story, Oprah was able to become one of the richest women in the United States. She built her media empire on the back of her inspiring and uplifting content.
Oprah sets a positive example of leadership and encourages others to follow her through integrity and honesty. She could not have achieved her mission alone, and her strength as a leader lies in her ability to elevate others to aid her in her mission.
- Richard Branson
Born in 1950, this British businessman has been undeniably successful. Well known for being the founder of the Virgin group and becoming one of the richest people on Earth, he clearly possesses immense leadership ability.
As a leader, Branson places great trust in the capabilities of his employees. He generates the big ideas for the direction of his companies and inspires those who work for him to manifest these dreams.
- Hubert Joly
As the CEO of Best Buy from 2012 to 2019, Joly was able to completely revamp the company and save it from complete failure. He came into this role right as it appeared that Amazon would drive the company out of business.
Joly took the Best Buy business model and turned it on its head. Instead of selling mainly CDs and other basic retail items, he switched the focus to be more about customer service. By doing this they were offering something that you could not get from shopping online, a real person to help you make purchasing decisions.
Over the course of his career, Best Buy stocks skyrocketed from around $20 to over $120 each. Joly truly is an example of a leader that was able to dramatically transform a business.
In companies where morale and motivation are low, a Transformational leader can cause a dramatic shift for the better.
These leaders are able to inspire and reinvigorate those who are following them. They set high standards for everyone, including themselves. In an environment of collaboration, instead of competition or fear, the team can work together with the support they need to accomplish any goal.
With this environment of support and a concrete vision for improvement, people fully utilizing this leadership style can set a struggling organization on a brighter path.