What is Transformational Leadership?

by Shannon Lee

As I read about transformational leadership I can’t help but ask, ‘How does this apply to Relā?’  If we say our mission is Transformed Culture Through Transformed Leaders…what is a transformed leader?  Or a Transformational Leader?

The idea was first presented by James MacGregor Burns, a leadership expert and presidential biographer and by definition is a “style of leadership in which the leader identifies the needed change, creates a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executes the change with the commitment of the members of the group.”  The emphasis in transformational leadership is on the leader’s personality and how well the leader is able to move a group of people towards a common goal that is SHARED by those he/she is leading – a goal he/she has previously INSPIRED the group towards.

Notice the emphasis on inspiration.  The transformational leader doesn’t boss people around with reasoning such as ‘just because’ and their success is measured not necessarily by the impact they have on a company or organization but rather the impact they have on the people they lead.

Bernard M. Bass is a researcher who expanded on Burns’ assertions relative to Transformational Leadership.  Bass purports that Transformational Leaders “garner trust, respect and admiration from their followers.”  He contrasts this concept with transactional leadership which focuses on personal gain or even organizational gain.  Transformational Leadership is quite the opposite, caring most about the growth, mission and vision of the individual followers.

Am I saying that all transactional leadership is bad or negative?  Not at all.  There are many times transactional leadership is necessary.  Some might even argue both must co-exist for effective leadership to take place.

But what I am saying is I believe Transformational Leadership seems to have a more positive and/or lasting effect on followers.  If as leaders we are trying to affect change, why not inspire all of those around us.  Who knows?  Maybe they will do the same!

What are your thoughts on Transformational Leadership based on these definitions and ideas above?  Are you a Transformational Leader?  When are you required to operate as a transactional leader and how does that compare to a transformational approach?  I’d love to hear your thoughts so comment below and don’t forget to visit us on Facebook and Twitter for more content on Transformational Leadership in the upcoming week.

Shannon Lee is the Associate Director and Relā(NxGen) Coordinator at Relā.  She resides in Lewis Center, Ohio with her husband Kristofer and their three children Jaren (19), Kaylee, (17) and Nia (16).

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