Our future is uncertain and changing rapidly, which requires leaders who are able to transform themselves and others.

Transformational leadership is a term James MacGregor Burns coined in 1978, and many experts agree that this leadership style is valuable for our future. If you want to be a better leader, then read this quick overview of transformational leadership and learn how you can become a leader capable of transforming yourself and your employees.

What is transformational leadership?

Transformational leaders:

  • have the ability to get people to change, to improve, and to be led;
  • seek to transform themselves and others; and
  • they build genuine trust with their followers and increase the awareness of what is right, good, important, and beautiful.

Why does transformational leadership work?

Employees will follow a leader who inspires them and who has a vision and a passion for their beliefs. Transformational leaders really care about their employees and want them to succeed.

Burn said that to have the greatest impact, leaders must motivate followers to action by appealing to shared values and by satisfying the higher order needs of the led (aspirations, expectations). He said, “. . . transforming leadership ultimately becomes moral in that it raises the level of human conduct and ethical aspiration of both leader and the led, and thus it has a transforming effect on both.”

Are you a transformational leader?

The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire—developed by Bernard Bass—measures the concepts of transformational leadership and transactional leadership. This tool can provide leaders with a contrast between how they see themselves and how others see them. It is considered the benchmark measure of transformational leadership and has been extensively researched and validated.

How can you become a more transformational leader?

There are four main steps for developing transformational leadership:

  1. First, leaders need to develop a vision and make a compelling case for change.
  2. Second, leaders need to inspire a shared vision and to constantly sell the vision.
  3. Third, leaders need to lead change and instill in their employees a sense of urgency.
  4. Finally, change needs to be embedded within the organization. This means monitoring progress and changing appraisal and reward systems.

One other thing to consider is that transformational leaders tend to see the big picture but not the details. For this reason, they must have employees around them that can take of the little things.

What examples of transformational leaders do you know?