Understanding Transformational Leadership
More than 30 years since it was introduced as business theory, transformational leadership continues to be one of the most studied and revered concepts. It’s still relevant for anyone interested in earning a Masters in Organizational Leadership (MOL) degree.
Transformational leadership focuses on relationships, motivation and individualization. Political scientist and leadership expert James MacGregor Burns introduced the concept of transformational leadership in his 1978 book, Leadership. Burns defines the transformational leadership process as leaders and followers engaging in such a way that they raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality.
Researcher Bernard M. Bass expanded on the concept of transformational leadership in his 1985 book, Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations. The book suggests that transformational leaders garner trust and respect by, among many behaviors, setting clear goals, encouraging others, offering recognition and inspiring people to reach for the improbable.
Certainly, understanding transformational leadership requires understanding the leaders themselves. What are the traits of people who are transformational leaders? According to the article The 4 Elements of Transformational Leaders, the first quality is being a positive role model. These leaders lead by example and would not ask followers to do something that he or she would not do. Their behavior is admired and emulated by people around them.
Another quality possessed by transformational leaders is the ability to inspire and motivate followers, the article states. They instill trust and motivate and inspire people with their strong sense of purpose.
Individualized attention is a key element of bringing out the best in employees. The transformational leader carefully thinks of ways to enhance the leader-follower dynamic because of concern for the personal needs and feelings of others. Concern and belief in a follower’s potential drives leaders to challenge others to higher levels of performance.
Individual performance contributes to organizational performance. The effect of transformational leadership can be seen and felt throughout an organization. Positive outcomes of transformational leadership can include:
- A supportive environment where responsibility is shared
- Innovation and the freedom to set strategies and change directions
- Genuine trust, respect and admiration among team members
Two of the classes in the Masters of Organizational Leadership program at Alvernia University in Reading, PA explore transformational theory. The leadership development course requires students to complete personal 360-degree assessments, which helps the students look at themselves objectively. In addition, the class covers developing positive relationships with peers and superiors, developing opportunities and situations to receive feedback and much more. Students are also required to take a leadership theory course, which provides a deep understanding and learning about transformational theory.
Anyone interested in moving into a leadership role should take a closer look at various leadership theories and how they are applied in the workplace. Gaining further insights will help a person understand the nature of effective leadership.