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An introduction to transformational leadership


The concept of transformational leadership is widely associated with James McGregor Burns, who is credited with describing the concept in his book “Leadership” from 1978. It is, at its core, concerned with leaders and followers providing a mutual drive to increase their levels of motivation and morality. It is also – as its name suggests – concerned with effecting change in individuals and systems, and has the end goal of developing followers into leaders through providing a real impetus for success via a variety of possible approaches.


Follower motivation


Bass, in 1985, extended the concept through an explanation of how the style can actually be measured, as well at its impact on follower motivation and overall job performance. This involves looking at the influence a leader has on their followers, as well as how followers are encouraged to innovate to arrive at new approaches that can solve organisational problems.


So what approach does a transformational leadership apply to prompt these transformations? They are, in general, likely to have high expectations of their team, and will set clear goals that they expect will be achieved. However, they will do this from a position of firstly demonstrating the same attributes and standards they demand in the work they do themselves. The commitment and support this engenders is reinforced by the leader’s charisma and personality, and underscored by the support and recognition they offer to their followers. They will inspire people to achieve more than they believed they could, and they will allow others to develop ideas to tackle the issues facing a company.


Communicating vision


To do this, transformational leaders need to develop and properly communicate a clear and inspiring vision of where it is they view the organisation as heading. This must then be aligned with followers’ morals and values to help them believe in the direction the leader is proposing. Once that is achieved – no mean feat in itself – a transformational leader needs to make sure that there is structure in place that ensures the vision is actually attained.  
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