Transformational Leadership

Transformational Leadership: How to Inspire Change for the Better

Everyone respects Michael. His team members are extremely loyal, and they’re highly successful, both individually and as a team. By contrast, other leaders in the very same organization report that their team seems disengaged. Furthermore, they experience high staff turnover and their results are less than phenomenal. So…what does Michael do that the other leaders don’t? Simple. Michael practices transformational leadership!

To start with, Michael frequently reminds his team of the purpose of their work. Furthermore, he knows that he’s a role model for his team, so he demonstrates integrity in all of his working relationships. While he does set high expectations, he “walks the walk” to demonstrate the standards that he expects.

In this article, we’ll discuss what transformational leadership is at its very core. We’ll even go so far as to outline how you can become a transformational leader.

What is Transformational Leadership?

Leadership guru James MacGregor Burns developed the concept of transformational leadership in his 1978 book, “Leadership.” Burns defined transformational leadership as a process where “leaders and their followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation.”

Bernard M. Bass later refined the concept of transformational leadership in his 1985 book, “Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations.” According to Bass, this kind of leader:

  • Is a model of integrity and fairness
  • Sets clear goals
  • Has high expectations
  • Encourages others
  • Provides support and recognition
  • Stirs the emotions of people
  • Gets people to look beyond their self-interest
  • Inspires people to reach for the improbable

More than twenty-five years after Bass’ books, transformational leadership is often thought of as one of the most important ideas in modern business leadership.

Check out this article on some of the more common leadership styles!

How to Become a Transformational Leader

We’ve simplified Bass’ idea into a process that you use to become a transformational leader. This process involves you:

  1. Creating an inspiring vision of the future
  2. Motivating people to buy into and deliver this vision
  3. Managing the delivery of the vision
  4. Building ever-stronger, trust-based relationships with your people

This four-step process doesn’t translate directly onto Bass’ list. It does, however, echo the essence of the traits that he set out into painfully clear and actionable steps.

You can use these steps, along with the tools outlined below, to develop your transformational leadership skills.

1.) Create an Inspiring Vision

People need a viable reason to follow your lead. This is why you need to create and communicate an inspiring vision of the future.

Your vision clearly defines your team’s purpose – the reason why you all get out of bed in the morning to do what you do. You develop this partly by understanding the values of the people you lead, partly by understanding the resources and capabilities of your organization, and partly by conducting an intelligent analysis of your environment. Ultimately, you select the best way to move forward towards your overarching goal(s).

This is the core subject of a business unit strategy. It should go without saying, but it never hurts to repeat it – developing a coherent strategy takes a lot of hard work and careful thought.

If you’re developing a vision for your organization, you could employ Mullins’ Seven Domains Model to analyze your environment.

Mullins' Seven Domains Model

You can then employ tools such as Lafley and Martin’s Five-Step Strategy Model to develop and refine your strategy. You typically summarize your vision in your mission statement, which is an essential element to your overall business plan.

If you’re tasked with developing a vision for your team, you should start with your company’s mission and vision, and then explore ways in which your team can directly contribute to it.

2.) Motivate People to Buy Into and Deliver the Vision

Next, you need to appeal to your team’s values and inspire them with where you plan to lead them, and why. Your mission statement is a great place to kick things off if you’re unsure of where to start.

You can use business storytelling as part of your call-to-action – this will help people appreciate the positive impact of your vision on the people you’re trying to help. It’s essential that you understand that you won’t inspire anyone if the only person you’re trying to help is yourself.

Next, you need to talk about your vision whenever the opportunity presents itself. Link it to people’s goals and tasks to give it context, and help people see how they can contribute to it on a personal level.

Transformational Leadership Motivation

Transformational leaders know that nothing important or significant happens unless they encourage their people. That being said, make sure that you know about the different types of motivation and use them to inspire your people to deliver their utmost best.

3.) Manage Delivery of the Vision

A vision is utterly useless on its own. In order to be effective, it needs to become a reality. However, many wannabe transformational leaders make the mistake of developing a vision but fail to put in the hard (and often boring) work required to delivering it.

To effectively deliver your vision, you’ll need an effective combination of both project management and change management. When applied correctly, this combination will help you deliver the changes you need with the full support of your team. It’s critical that you clearly communicate each person’s roles and responsibilities, and connect these to your plans. Everyone needs to fully understand what they’re responsible for and how you will measure their ultimate success (or failure).

Next, you need to set clear SMART goals for everyone, including some short-term goals that will help people achieve quick wins and stay motivated. You can employ management by objectives to link short-term achievements to longer-term goals.

You may find it necessary to improve your self-discipline and stamina so that you don’t let yourself down. Furthermore, you need to set a positive example for your team. This is especially true if they experience delays, difficulties, or other forms of adversity.

4.) Build Ever-Stronger, Trust-Based Relationships with Your People

As a transformational leader, it is critical for you to focus your attention on your people. You not only need to give them your attention, but you also need to help them achieve their goals and dreams.

You can use Dunham and Pierce’s Leadership Process Model as a launch point. This tool outlines how important your people are to your overall success as a leader. It also highlights the fact that leadership is a long-term process, and that, as a leader, you need to constantly work to build relationships, earn trust, and help your people grow as individuals.

Transformational Leadership Trust

You can accomplish this objective by meeting with your team individually to better understand their dreams and aspirations. Doing so is also a great way to help them meet their career goals. What do they want to achieve in their role? Where do they see themselves five years from now? How can you help them reach these goals?

You can go about building trust with your people by being open and honest in your interactions.

Lastly, set aside time to coach your team. When you help them find their personal solutions, you not only improve your team but also strengthen their self-confidence and their trust in you as their leader.

Key Takeaways

Transformational leaders inspire great loyalty and trust in their followers. They have high expectations, and they inspire their people to achieve their goals.

You can become a transformational leader by following these steps:

  1. Create an inspiring vision of the future
  2. Motivate people to buy into and deliver the vision
  3. Manage the delivery of the vision
  4. Build ever-stronger, trust-based relationships with your people

Remember, to succeed as a transformational leader, you’ll need to work on your own skills, and set aside time and space for personal development.

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