Transformational leadership is a style of management that many people wish to achieve and businesses often seek out candidates displaying this talent.
People exhibiting transformational leadership typically focus on revolutionary change within organisations based on a commitment to the company’s vision and strategy.
The late Bernard Bass, a professor emeritus in the School of Management at Binghamton University, highlighted four characteristics of transformational leaders.
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1. Idealised influence
One of the key ways transformational leaders inspire change is to engender trust and loyalty among followers through charisma and positive behaviour.
Creating this sense of idealised influence in the workforce can be achieved in a number of ways, including leading by example, articulating a vision and explaining how to reach goals.
Having high ethical and moral values – and displaying them in dealings with staff – is also a characteristic of transformational leaders. Seen as role models, these individuals have the confidence of staff, who will typically respect their decisions and strategies.
2. Intellectual stimulation
Spurring innovation and effecting change requires staff to re-examine entrenched beliefs, notions and processes. Only then can radical new initiatives be introduced.
Transformational leaders create an environment of intellectual stimulation, where employees’ awareness of business issues is developed and encouraged.
Creativity is the key to success and staff are given guidance on how to optimise their problem-solving capabilities, including lateral-thinking exercises.
Managers tend to foster a climate where new ideas can be explored in a supportive, collaborative atmosphere, without fear of punishment or ridicule.
3. Individualised consideration
Transformational leaders have a tendency to prioritise an individualised view of the workforce. In other words, they treat each staff member as a separate person with their own skills, talents and motivations.
Taking this into account helps leaders to select roles for employees that are best suited to their capabilities, which enables staff to reach personal goals more easily.
Leaders can achieve this in a number of ways, including listening to personnel closely, praising positive performances, publicly recognising achievements and privately thanking staff for outstanding contributions. Some managers may also take on a coaching or mentoring role to help colleagues develop further.
4. Inspirational motivation
Keeping people inspired is often what gets the creative juices flowing, which is vital for transformational leaders looking to make large-scale changes to business operations.
Common motivational tactics include encouraging teamwork, articulating the company vision in a way that appeals to an employee’s own objectives and developing a shared goal that provides meaning to daily tasks.
Transformational leaders typically create an atmosphere where followers are inspired to become an intrinsic part of the brand’s culture and vision. They set high standards, which gives people tough – yet achievable – targets that boost productivity, while providing a sense of fulfilment.