Transformational leadership, at its core, is the concept of leadership as a process, where “leaders and their followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation.” Thanks to James McGregor Burns who introduced the concept, and Bernard M. Bass who further developed it, transformational leadership has become a favorite leadership style in today’s workplace. It can be broken down into four specific parts:
Transformational leaders are influential, charismatic. They act as role models to inspire followers to want to become more like them. Mainly, the leader needs to give their subordinates a reason to follow them, or, preferably, for many reasons. By displaying a willingness to take risks and discipline in reaching their goals, the leader builds trust among their followers, and the followers become more confident in their leader.
Leaders also create influence by sharing a vision for what the future should look like, to encourage followers to help them build it and take part in it.
This ties into leaders’ sense of confidence and giving their followers a sense of purpose. To be fair, these pillars of transformational leadership all overlap to an extent so that it might sound similar to the first element. Inspirational motivation also speaks to the expert level of communication that is required of a leader, because as much as a leader must lead by example, speaking is an equally important part. An authority figure must act like one, as well as provide continuous optimism, enthusiasm, and recognize achievements when appropriate.
Rather than encourage conformity, transformational leaders emphasized creativity and self-autonomy. It is vital for the group to come to a consensus and make decisions together, rather than blindly obeying whatever the leader says. This fosters useful, thought-provoking discussion, as well as allows followers to feel that their contributions mean something. Collaboration is critical, and it is up to the leader to provide that environment.
A leader needs to take care of their people. By remaining cognizant of what their followers need, a transformational leader can cater inspiration to each person. What may motivate one member may not mean very much to another, so to recognize that shows consideration and forethought, and allows for more consistent, positive growth. This will only help to foster a strong connection between the leader and followers and firmly demonstrate that moving towards the vision is a team effort, rather than a one-person mission.