In the last decade, the term transformational leadership has been widely used to describe leaders who seem to change the status quo and inspire teams to give their all. It looks like a new concept that has caught on with more of a corporate emphasis on caring about social issues that go beyond mere profit. However, the theory of transformational leadership has been around since the late 1970s. Political scientist and former presidential advisor discussed the concept of transformational leadership in his book Leadership.
He felt that traditional leadership should be referred to as transactional leadership. The point of that kind of leadership style is to exchange money, benefit, or recognition in exchange for the obedience or loyalty of followers.
Author then argues that transformational leaders care more about the holistic development of people such as their confidence, self-esteem, and aspirations. It heavily relates to selfless leadership and carries with it compassion and consideration for fellow men.
For transformational leaders, the interests of the group are more crucial than self-interests. Transformational Leadership Theory discusses ways to use primary aspects of transformational leadership in the workplace to create an effective and efficient environment for workplace success.
We live in an environment where corporations are required to care about the impact their work has on the customers they serve. Some studies have shown a link between higher profits and an emphasis on corporate social responsibility. Therefore, it would make sense that leaders should care about their leadership style complementing a brand image that embraces sustainability and consideration. Many empirical studies have shown that transformational leaders are more successful than those who practice transactional methods. According to a study in a SAGE publication, transformational leadership is linked to a lot of positive behaviors that can help businesses run more smoothly:
- They can help future followers grow into leaders by being agents of change.
- It can strengthen interpersonal relationships between leaders and those they manage.
- Transformational leaders are more likely to create more efficient communication avenues and an environment of trust and approval.
These are all characteristics that can increase employee engagement and support increased job satisfaction in workers according to the research conducted in the publication. However, there are some specific principles that leaders can adhere to when they consider utilizing Transformational Leadership Theory.
- Principles of Transformational Leadership Theory Part 1
- Implementing Transformational Leadership Principles Part 2
- Transformational Leadership: Best Practices Part 3
Principles of Transformational Leadership Theory
For leaders to implement transformational leadership, there are four main principles that individuals have to exemplify. Outside of these, there are some ideas that are helpful to include to inform the four primary principles further.
Transformational leadership theory goes a step further than just defining what it is, but it describes how leaders can put this type of leadership into practice.
Leaders should inspire those they manage with an emphasis on mission, values, and vision to create meaning. This is where leaders help workers to understand that the work they engage in is useful and means something to the company.
Transformational leaders specialize in shaking up the status quo. If an old idea is not practical and no longer serves a purpose, then a leader should have no problem discarding it. They set employees up for success and encourage them to be innovative and creative in how they approach problems and produce solutions.
This is the “practice what you preach” stage of transformational leadership. Employees are more likely also to adopt the ethical principles set forth by transformational leadership if leaders become role models concerning the principles. Leaders should treat every interaction with employees as a chance to inspire transformational leadership.
Leaders then work to recognize the individual talents and skills of each person they work with. They do what they can to encourage their success and create opportunities for them to create, innovate, and make their own decisions that lead to success.
Additional qualities that transformational leaders may employ:
Transformational leaders set themselves apart by never treating knowledge or development with finality. There is always more to learn, and there is always a way for leaders to continue to develop their management style.
Leaders should create ways for employees to also take advantage of opportunities to develop their skills better. Learning and training should never stop for a team that is led by a transformational leader. Improving their intellectual capacity should be a priority.
To have an all-star team, transformational leaders need to make effective hiring and onboarding a significant priority. To implement new ideas, innovation, and an attitude against becoming complacent; leaders have to attract people who are as ambitious and motivated as they are. Those who are hired also need to be people who feel comfortable with leading from where they are.
How Can Leaders Implement Transformational Leadership Principles?
Transformational leadership does not just happen; it has to be something that is cultivated and purposefully pursued. Therefore, there are steps leaders can take to make this happen.
- Determine a Leadership and Management Style – Before leaders can decide what type of transformational leaders they want to be, they first have to determine what their management style is. A lot of this depends on personality and previous experiences. Introversion, extroversion, communication style, work preferences, etc. can all have an impact on leadership styles. It helps if a leader has this already in mind as they explore how they can implement transformational leadership tactics.
- Understand the Mission and Vision of the Company – To become a leader it is essential to understand that every business does things differently. Transformation leadership in one organization may look entirely different in another. So, it is necessary to understand the background of the organization and how the company mission and values can connect with the leadership style chosen.
- Start with Encouraging Innovation and Creativity – A great way to begin the move toward transformational leadership is to let employees know their creativity, autonomy, and ideas are significant. They can start the turn to inspiring others with attention paid to the work they do and letting them know how meaningful it is to the company.
- Formally Communicate a Switch Toward Transformational Practices – If a culture of transformational leadership is going to be the norm, leaders should have a conversation with workers about how this will impact their work, feedback, and opportunities for further training and development.
- Implement Change – How will feedback sessions change? Will there be a greater emphasis on aligning with the mission, vision, and goals? Are leaders planning to practice more of what they preach to become role models for employees? There needs to be a plan for actual change in the way the workplace culture has currently run.
- Chart Your Course – Transformational leaders need to also decide on their development with everything from growth to professional development training. If leaders are aware of what they would like to get out of the experience, then they can maximize their impact and help inspire others.
- Make Coaching and Mentorship a Priority – One of the most critical aspects of transformational leadership is the ability to inspire others to be great. Leaders should develop plans that create ways for them to mentor and coach employees. This could be through a formal mentorship program where senior leaders take junior employees under their wing. These ties can also happen during community service projects or team building activities.
Again, transformational leadership does not just happen. Leaders have to make a conscious effort to inspire change and create a culture that cultivates these principles to take hold.
Transformational Leadership: Best Practices
Below are some practical tips for leaders who want to use a transformational leadership style.
Be Comfortable with Experimentation
Transformational leaders need to focus on adaptability and being satisfied with adjusting their skills and talents to any situation. Leaders cannot use a “this is how we have always done it approach.” Therefore, they need to experiment with various ways of solving problems.
Take Personal Responsibility
It is so easy to fall into the blame game when it comes to teamwork and collaboration. However, leaders that are sincerely trying to transform their surroundings need to take responsibility for positive and negative developments in management. Genuinely changing a situation for the better requires leaders to make personal accountability for the work they and their teams accomplish.
Always Look for an Opportunity to Improve
Some things are better left the way they are, but there are times where change is appropriate. Leaders need to feel comfortable looking for ways to better their team, processes, and the work environment as a whole. However, all changes need to be made with the team’s best interest in mind.
Keep Higher-Level Needs at the Forefront
While seeking profit and company success is a critical part of business, transformational leaders always manage employees with their esteem, confidence, and aspirations in mind. The goal should be inspiring others to do the best work they can for the good of themselves and the company, and hopefully, they too will become transformational leaders.
Ideas Should Be of Greater Concern Than Processes
This goes along with the tip that discusses the fact that leaders should become comfortable with change. If someone has an innovative idea that has a high likelihood of success, then this should be considered more vital to the company than a process. Loyalty should be given to creativity and innovation, and not to old ideas that may no longer have a purpose.
The main idea of transformational leadership is to inspire others to be their best selves. Leaders that ascribe to this way of life become change agents that motivate employees also to become leaders.