What is transformational leadership and why is it so important?
Transformational leadership produces higher results than other types of leadership. For example, while transactional leadership (managing through rewards, punishments and exceptions) leads to expected results, transformational leadership leads to results that exceed expectations. A significant body of research finds transformational leaders are more effective and have better performance outcomes. These findings are valid for both senior and middle management leaders, valid for both private and public companies. Transformational leadership pushes followers to achieve more than what is normally expected of them. They become motivated to transcend their own self-interests for the good of the group or organization (Bass & Avolio, 1993).
The concept of transformational leadership was originally developed by Burns in 1978 and subsequently further developed by Bass and Avolio into a comprehensive model. Burns characterizes transformational leadership in moral terms-including the leader’s ability to call followers to a higher level of ethical understanding and commitment, the ability to focus the group or society toward a concern for justice and equality rather than simply meeting material needs. He defines a Transformational Leader as an engaging, inclusive follower of shared values and goals, also creating overarching, lasting and fundamental change in organizations.
Factors of transformational leadership
Also called charisma. This is the emotional component of leadership. Idealized influence describes leaders who act as strong role models for followers. These leaders usually have very high standards of moral and ethical behaviour and can be counted on to do the right thing. They are deeply respected by the followers and are highly trusted. They provide followers with a vision and a sense of mission. An example of a charismatic leader is Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first non-white president. Mandela is seen as a leader with high moral standards and a vision for South Africa, he monumentally changed the way the people of South Africa were governed. His charismatic qualities and people’s reaction to them transformed an entire nation.
These are leaders who have high expectations of their followers, inspiring through motivation to share the organization’s vision. In practice, leaders use symbols and emotional appeals for group members’ efforts to achieve higher results than they would under normal circumstances. Team spirit is enhanced by this type of leadership. An example of this factor would be a sales manager who motivates sales team members to develop their skills through encouraging conversations that clearly communicate the integral role they play in the future growth of the company.
It involves leadership that stimulates followers to be creative and innovative, who challenge their own beliefs and values as well as those of the leader and the organization. This type of leadership supports followers as they try out new approaches and develop innovative ways of dealing with organisational problems. It encourages followers to think things through for themselves and engage in careful problem solving. An example of this type of leadership is the IT manager who encourages individual software developers to develop unique ways to solve problems.
Attention and respect for the individual
This factor is representative of leaders who provide a supportive climate in which they listen carefully to followers’ individual needs. The leader acts as a coach and counselor while trying to help followers become fully actualized. These leaders can use delegation to help followers grow through personal challenges. An example of this type of leadership is a manager who spends time relating to each employee in a caring and unique way. For some employees, the leader may provide a strong affiliation; for others, the leader may provide specific instructions with a high degree of structure. It is also considered that attention and individual approach to employees are prerequisites for innovativeness values. “The individual approach, attention and respect for employees stimulate suggestions for improving current products and services, suggesting ideas for improving practices and ways of working, and acting to introduce and implement new ideas” (Ilieva S. 2021).
- Ilieva, S. (2021). Leadership Styles and Innovative Behaviour of IT Employees
- Bass, B. M., & Avolio, B. J. (1993). Transformational Leadership and Organizational Culture. Public Administration Quarterly, 17, 112-121.
- Burns, J.M. (1978), Leadership, Harper & Row, New York, NY.