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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Transformational Leadership

Many organizations need more than minor "tweaking".  They need to be transformed from one thing to another.  This requires a talented leader who possesses certain traits and skills.  Transformational leadership is a theory that was developed by James McGregor Burns in 1978. He developed this theory to further address the aspects of an organization that lead to success, encourage enthusiasm among an organization's employees, and identify the values employees place on their work(1).

Characteristics of a transformational leader:

* Charismatic

* Engaging

* Inspirational

* Stable

* Optimistic

* Encouraging

* Honest

* Motivational

* Respectful

* Positive

* Team oriented

* Effective communicator

* Empowering

* Reliable

* Trustworthy

* Empathetic

* Mentor

* Visionary

(Smith, Mary Atkinson, 2011)   There are 7 principles to Transformational Leadership:  


The transformational leader speaks in a clear and practical manner while explaining the direction the team is heading. Specifically, the plan for each project should include more than what needs to be done at the moment. The desired end result should also be vividly communicated so employees know where they, and the project, are heading. By knowing and effectively relaying what the project needs to transform into the anticipated result, you eliminate miscommunication and misunderstanding.


Employees need motivation to perform at their best. Under the principle of motivation, you gain the agreement and commitment necessary to elevate your vision. By understanding your employees’ likes and dislikes, you know what motivates and what doesn’t. For example, recognizing and applauding their accomplishments, providing training to increase their knowledge base, establishing a pleasant work environment,  can motivate employees into performing at their highest level.


Determination means having the tenacity to finish the race regardless of the hurdles that come your way. The principle of determination requires you to depend on your courage, stamina, strength and perseverance to realize your vision. By displaying endurance, you show employees that hard work pays off in the end.


You need the right people to elevate your vision. Transformational leaders know how to assemble the appropriate team to get the job done. This includes enlisting, empowering and equipping qualified team leaders and other willing participants who do not have leadership roles. The transformational leader understands the importance of assigning tasks based on participants’ characteristics and abilities.


The principle of preparation requires transformational leaders to be infinite students. You must have the introspective ability to keep learning about yourself, alone or with the assistance of others. To maintain a flourishing bond with your employees, you must always be prepared to nurture and support the relationship. This means looking outside yourself, concentrating on what’s best for the team, and transferring this energy to your employees so they emulate this behavior.


The principle of facilitation requires you to provide your employees with the proper learning tools to elevate the vision to its greatest height. Specifically, workers need stimulating work that challenges and expands their minds and facilitates the desire to keep learning. As a transformational leader, you recognize this principle and work toward improving your employees’ intellectuality.


Change in a business environment is inevitable. Under the principle of innovation, you courageously recognize the need for change and initiate it accordingly. For example, innovation may include learning and adapting to an upgraded accounting system, or adjusting to an employee who has just been promoted to management. As a transformational leader, you effectively show employees why the change is needed, how it will benefit them and the company, and how to embrace it.

Adapted from

      (1)  Barker AM, Sullivan DT, Emery MJ. Leadership Competencies for Clinical Managers: The Renaissance of Transformational Leadership. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett; 2006.

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