Why Transformational Leadership is Superior to Everything Else

Transformational leadership has become the most popular model of leadership, generating a great deal of discussion and research. Perhaps the reason it has received so much attention is that it represents a change in what we see as effective leadership.

Early on, critics of transformational leadership suggested that it simply reflected good management practices. I would argue, however, that transformational leadership is the best model for effective leadership in today’s business world. Extensive research evidence backs up this assertion, suggesting that transformational leaders are superior to everything else.1

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The business world has gotten increasingly complex and fast paced. This requires individuals, groups, and organizations that can continually grow, change, and adapt. Transformational leadership is, at its core, all about transformation and change.

Leaders and Followers Have Changed – for Good

Autocratic and authoritarian leaders, although they still exist, are no longer the norm. Leaders today are expected to listen to their followers and be responsive to their needs. Mentoring, coaching, empowering, developing, supporting, and caring are not only expected leader behaviors, but necessary for today’s effective leader. 

Followers have also changed. Today, they are knowledge workers – informed, enlightened, and often know better than the leader how to get the job done. They are also an increasingly diverse group, and a command-and-control style will not work for them all. They want to be empowered to make decisions, and want to follow a leader that will help them achieve their own personal goals. More importantly, they are future leaders, so if an organization is going to succeed over time, their potential must be developed. Transformational leaders focus a great deal of their time and attention on developing these future leaders.

Transformational Leaders are Valued Around the World

Transformational leadership can be found in all parts of the globe and in all types of organizations. Research on transformational leadership has taken place on every continent and in nearly every industrialized nation. Research from the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) project support that elements of transformational leadership are valued leader qualities in all countries and cultures.

Authentic transformational leadership has an impact in all organizations and cultures because true transformational leaders have goals that transcend their own self-interests and work towards the common good of the group or organization. Transformational leaders gain follower’s trust and commitment by maintaining their integrity. These leaders are willing to demonstrate integrity through personal sacrifice – taking on a proportionally larger workload when necessary, foregoing the trappings of power, or by postponing their own rewards for the benefit of the team.

4 Qualities Make Transformational Leaders Unique

Transformational leadership requires a change in emphasis and orientation. A transformational leader is unique in these 4 ways:

1. They exhibit charisma and influence, but with high standards of excellence.  These leaders set an example, show determination, take appropriate risks demonstrate dedication to a cause, create a shared vision, react calmly in crises, and empower their subordinates.

2. They are motivating and inspiring.  These leaders provide meaning and challenge in the work, paint an optimistic vision of the future, create high expectations, and think ahead.

3. They challenge followers to think critically, for themselves.  These leaders question previously held assumptions, challenge the status quo, encourage creativity and innovation, and ask subordinates to rework the same problems in new ways.

4. They are considerate and compassionate.  These leaders are responsive and available when needed, show concern for the well-being of the subordinates, assign tasks based on individual abilities, encourage the two-way exchange of ideas, nurture development of potential, and effectively mentor and coach.

Transformational leadership is a style where the leader increases their follower’s awareness of what is right, good, and important.  As a result, transformational leaders have more satisfied followers than any other form of leadership. This is a strong and consistent finding.

Transformational leadership behavior can be assessed; then coached and developed.  If you are interested in improving your transformational leadership style, don’t hesitate to contact me for coaching services at drstefani@leadinghigher.com.

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1B.M. Bass & Riggio, R.E. (2006).  Transformational Leadership.  New York:  Taylor and Francis Group.

2Judge, 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.

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  1. Great article for a new paradigm. Thank you Stefani

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