What is Transformational Leadership?
Transformational leadership is an approach whereby leaders drive change by encouraging, inspiring and motivating employees to help shape the future success of the organization. It utilizes a variety of mechanisms such as placing an emphasis on cooperation and communication, encouraging followers to take greater ownership of their work and deciphering their unique strengths, weaknesses and needs in order to better match employees with tasks that enhance their performance.
People are the most determining cog in the finely-tuned machine that is business transformation. Regardless of the level of detail put into the implementation of advanced technology, streamlined processes and detailed analytics, it is the people’s adoption of these tools that allows their potential to be realized. At the same time, people can also be the least predictable, most temperamental and largest contributing factor to business transformation failure. In times of change, it is critical that leaders decipher a method of gaining the support of the individuals involved and impacted by the transformation processes.
Despite its early beginnings, the transformational leadership model is of particular relevance and value today as businesses are increasingly required to demonstrate agility and innovation amid a rapidly evolving landscape. Notable examples of transformational leaders include Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Netflix’s Reed Hastings who each head businesses which have disrupted their respective industries as well as the business world as a whole. Both of these organizations have created working environments centred on clear values, priorities and standards while encouraging employee ownership and development (i.e. Amazon’s famous “Leadership Principles”). Similarly, Fidelity’s Peter Lynch or Vangaurd’s John Bogle are further examples of transformational leaders who have used this approach to revolutionize the way that financial professionals interact with their clients and customers.
In a recent content piece, How to Lead Change and Influence People, we explore the how leaders can overcome obstacles and drive real change through the principles of transformational leadership. This exclusive content piece features insight from OPEX Week: Business Transformation World Summit speakers Renaud Fournier, Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer at Wiley and Sonia Singh Leadership Coach and Associate Director of Cultural Transformation & Strategic Engagement, Optum.
Below we outline some the key principles of transformational leadership.
Defining Transformational Leadership
While first devised in the early 1970’s, the most popularized model of transformational leadership is that defined by researcher Bernard M. Bass in 1985. Bass had an explicit interest in how a leader achieved efficacy in gaining trust from their followers and changing long-held perceptions and beliefs. He argued that, in order to create true change, a leader must be a role model, but must also challenge the existing order while appealing to people’s higher order needs. For Bass, transformational leadership is grounded in four components: idealized influence; inspirational motivation; intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration.
Transformational leaders gain trust and confidence from their followers through their willingness to take risks while also following a core set of values, convictions and ethical principles in the actions he/she takes. In doing so, leaders act as role models and influence others to want to become more like them.
A transformational leader inspires confidence, motivation and a sense of purpose in his/her followers. They are able to articulate a clear vision for the future, communicate expectations of the group and demonstrate commitment to the goals that have been laid out.
The transformational leader encourages his/her followers by involving them in the decision-making process and stimulating their efforts to identify solutions through creativity and innovation. The leader supports followers to challenge assumptions and see the bigger picture.
Transformational leaders are able to recognize that each member of their team is driven by unique needs and desires. In identifying an individual’s motivations, a leader will be able to craft distinct approaches and opportunities that aid their performance and growth.
Click the image below to download exclusive content piece 'How to Lead Change and Influence People' and gain more insight into the potential advantages in adopting a transformational leadership approach: