Transformational Leadership: What you need to know

Transformational Leadership: What you need to know

What is transformational leadership?

Perhaps the most well-known theory of leadership is the transformational leadership theory. It was first proposed by the social psychologist James MacGregor Burns in the 1960s. He defined transformational leadership as a style of leadership that aims to inspire and motivate others, often through the use of rhetoric and other techniques. The idea was expanded upon by other psychologists, including John French and Bertram C. Brock, in their book The Management Style of Popes, which led to the theory being called French and Brocks theory of transformational leadership.


There are many definitions of transformational leadership, but at its core, it is a form of leadership in which a leader inspires others to higher performance levels. This is achieved by creating a shared vision, communicating a compelling direction, and demonstrating the behaviours that will help others achieve the vision. Transformational leaders motivate others to do their best and inspire them to want to do their best. They are often charismatic and empathetic and build strong teams and organizations.


Transformational leadership is a leadership style in which a leader seeks to inspire and motivate others rather than simply directing, managing, and controlling them. It focuses on providing direction and creating an inspiring vision rather than simply managing day-to-day operations. Leaders who exhibit this leadership style often aim to improve the lives of others—and the world at large—in ways that extend beyond their lifetimes. It is this type of leadership that has the potential to impact the world.



Leadership theories have been shaped by great leaders experiences and thinkers philosophies. It is the most commonly studied leadership theory globally and is often cited as the most effective. The theory seeks to explain the mechanisms by which leaders influence the behavior of others.


For years, leaders have been taught the importance of being good managers, communicators, and strategists. But certain leaders have gone a step further and shown the world that you can be a great leader without being a good manager, communicator, or strategist. These transformational leaders are uniquely able to inspire people to go beyond what they thought was possible. They provide a clear vision for the future and a sense of purpose for the organization. 


Leadership is arguably the most important factor in organizational success. But not all leadership is created equal. The right leadership can steer an organization in the right direction and set its employees up for success. The wrong leadership can have the opposite effect—it can cause employees to underperform, squander opportunities, and leave the organization worse off than when the leader took over.


Related: Good leadership traits


The power of transformational leadership

We all recognize the power of a good leader—a person who can take a group of people and turn them into a successful company, a school that outperforms the rest, or a team that outperforms its competitors. Such transformational leaders have a unique ability to inspire and motivate others to achieve more than they ever thought possible. But some leaders go beyond this, leaving a legacy that affects not only those who knew them but generations to come. These are the leaders we talk about years after they are gone—the ones whose names we remember, whose words we quote, and whose actions we seek to emulate.


The most well-known proponent of transformational leadership theory is Steve Jobs, who used his leadership to inspire others to bring their best selves to work. The theory proposes that leaders are most successful when they focus on providing direction and creating an inspiring vision rather than simply managing day-to-day operations. The theory has been used to explain the behavior of some of the greatest leaders in history, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Abraham Lincoln.


The most common leadership style is probably the traditional one, characterized by a command and control approach. In a traditional leadership style, the leader dictates the groups direction and expects others to follow without question. The traditional style is often described as being a \"leader of men, not of ideas,\" as it emphasizes the leaders authority over the ideas of others. The traditional style is effective when leaders operate in a hierarchical environment, where the leader knows exactly what needs to be done and expects others to follow without question.


Related: Traditional Leadership Styles That Do Not Work



Transformational leadership profoundly impacts the lives of those within an organization. Transformational leaders can inspire, motivate and challenge their employees in a way that brings out the best in them and ultimately improves organizational performance. This has a positive impact on the organization as a whole and helps it to grow and succeed. The impact of transformational leadership is most evident when an organization is going through challenging times and requires everyone to work together to overcome a difficult situation.



Memory Nguwi
Super User
This article was written by Memory a Super User at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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