Are you satisfied with the leadership style you currently practice? Does being a leader come easily to you – or do you feel you have to work at it more than others? Whatever your answer, here’s some good news: there’s a way for every leader—at every level—to achieve greater levels of success for themselves, their teams, and their organizations.
How? With transformational leadership.
Let’s start by taking in a little background on transformational leadership. Then, I’ll walk you through the traits you can employ to become a successful transformational leader.
What Is Transformational Leadership?
This technique was first put forward by James MacGregor Burns, a presidential biographer turned leadership expert. Burns stated that transformational leadership happens when leaders and followers help each other reach higher levels of motivation and success.
Burns’ ideas were later expanded by researcher Bernard M. Bass, who stated that effective transformational leaders earn respect, admiration, and trust from the people they lead.
Transformational leaders aren’t just business smart. They have a passion for their work and the ability to transfer that passion to the people they lead. They’re focused on helping every member of their group succeed and can inspire positive changes in those who follow them.
Although this sounds like a tall order, it’s really quite easy once you understand the basic principles.
The Four Basic Leadership Principles
Bass outlined four basic components of this leadership style, and they help bring home just how effective it can be. If you’re not already, consider how you might incorporate these components into the way you lead…and how you may use these to inspire those around you.
- Intellectual Stimulation– Transformational leadership means encouraging those you lead to be creative, challenge the status quo, and discover new learning opportunities. This is the opposite of the more “technical” leadership style that dominated the late 20th
- Individualized Consideration– This style means offering one-on-one support and encouragement to followers. It requires open communication styles so all feel free to share ideas, and intends for leaders to recognize each person’s unique contribution to the group’s success.
- Inspirational Motivation– Leaders are able to create a clear vision of success, communicate it to their groups, and generate the passion and motivation needed to achieve goals.
- Idealized Influence– In all cases, transformational leaders are role models for those they lead. Because of their trust and respect for their leader, groups will model and internalize that person’s ideals.
How To Be A Transformational Leader
Building on the ideas above, there are five ways that transformational leaders set themselves apart and drive success for everyone they lead. How many of these do you routinely practice?
- Practice Personal Accountability – Research says this is the biggest element for success. Transformational leaders can ask themselves what they need to do better or can recognize what is or isn’t working well. They don’t place blame on external circumstances and don’t wait for those circumstances to change to move forward. Does this ring true in your leadership practices?
- Connect With Your Values, Strengths, and Purpose – Write down your values and spend a few minutes each morning deciding how you will bring your full, authentic self to your workplace. Knowing your sense of purpose makes you more confident and flexible when facing stress, changes, and challenges. Who doesn’t want that?
- Be Willing To Try New Behaviors And Actions – When old behaviors aren’t working, transformational leaders are willing to try something new, to be more flexible in different situations. Try asking yourself, “Who’s the best self I can be in this particular situation?” and then decide on your actions. How might this kind of agility help you succeed, both in your professional and personal life?
- Exercise Curiosity Versus Judgement – We’re hard wired to take the shortest path to our goal, but this also means we can lead “by habit,” making unconscious judgements or assumptions without even realizing it. A good reflective question is “How can I look at this situation differently so we can all achieve ultimate success?” or “What assumptions am I making that I could see differently?”
- Find Opportunity In Change – Rather than wasting energy fighting change (in project scope, resources, etc.), transformational leaders ask themselves what’s good about the situation or what can be learned from it. Look for ways to develop something new from the change. It’s not always easy, but it can reap big rewards. How could you apply this right now in your leadership role?
According to Burns, transformational leadership simply tries to answer the essential questions: What is the ultimate goal of leadership and why should someone become a leader?
It’s a very different technique than “My way or the highway.” And it reaps better rewards for everyone it touches. How would practicing transformational leadership make a difference in your organization?
Looking for ways to be a transformational leader who can inspire everyone in your organization to reach higher levels of success? Sign up here to access my free Weekly Bold Move.
Colleen Slaughter Raue, Managing Partner of Authentic Leadership International
Colleen is a transformational leadership coach who guides international leaders as they attain the clarity, courage and self-confidence necessary to realize higher levels of productivity and fulfillment in both their personal and professional lives.
Her purpose is to facilitate her clients’ transformation from limiting beliefs and self-doubts into a deeper, more powerful knowingness of how much they – and what they envision for themselves – truly matter.
Colleen’s perspectives were recently featured in an article on the International Coach Federation’s website here.