We have spent the last century trying to define and measure leadership. Until now, there has been little consensus about what constitutes good leadership.
Researchers have recently identified a kind of leadership that is well suited for today’s organizations. We need leaders that can respond to rapid change, increased globalization, advancements in technology, and a turbulent economy. Their employees are confronted with greater responsibility, increased ambiguity, and more complex problems to solve. So today’s leader must coach and develop rather than simply control.
This kind of leadership has been labeled “transformational.” Today, transformational leadership has become the most widely studied form of leadership; it dominates thinking about leadership effectiveness. In the last 20 years, there have been more studies on transformational leadership than on all other popular theories of leadership combined. A recent meta-analysis (a summary of 87 studies) found this leadership style to be associated with the most positive outcomes in performance, commitment, satisfaction, motivation, and productivity.
A Cultural Shift
Transformational leadership represents a cultural shift in what is considered good leadership. Effective leadership is now defined in terms of the qualities of a good coach or mentor rather than an authoritative person who tells others what to do. The collaborative aspects of this leadership style fosters more effective teams.
This kind of leadership differs significantly from “transactional” leadership. Transactional leaders merely provide a transaction or an exchange relationship (“you work for me, I’ll provide for you”). Unfortunately, transactional leadership is the style most often found in organizations; typical of common managers.
In contrast, transformational leaders are known for transforming the culture in which they work. They are creative and effective change agents. They establish themselves as a role model by gaining other’s trust and confidence. They mentor, coach, and develop others – building a bench of future leaders.
Transformational leaders motivate differently. They remind followers of the purpose and value of their work that transcends short-term goals. Employees are less motivated by a paycheck and are instead driven to improve the world or serve the greater good in some way. This is the highest form of motivation as described in Daniel Pink’s popular TED talk and book, Drive.
Do you already demonstrate some of these transformational leadership behaviors? Which areas could you work on? Transformational leadership behavior can be assessed; then coached and developed. The initial focus of coaching is getting you familiar with the transformational leadership model and helping you become aware of your current behavior through 360◦ feedback. You then practice specific skills that help you become a more transformational leader.
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Judge, T. A., & Piccolo, R. F. (2004). Transformational and transactional leadership: A meta-analytic test of their relative validity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 755-768.