Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership 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. It produces valuable and positive changes focused on developing followers into leaders.

James MacGregor Burns first introduced the concept of transformational leadership in his descriptive research on political leaders.  According to Burns, transforming leadership is a process in which "leaders and followers help each other to advance to a higher level of morale and motivation". Burns related to the difficulty in differentiation between management and leadership and claimed that the differences are in characteristics and behaviors.

The most effective way for a leader to succeed is to transform his subordinates into leaders who pursue his goals with the same vision, passion, and energy as he does.

-Brady Stephenson


Transformational leaders pick the right people, match them to the right jobs, achieve mutual clarity on the desired results, and then they get out of the way and leave the individual with maximum freedom to perform.

- Brian Tracy


Through the strength of their vision and personality, transformational leaders are able to inspire followers to change expectations, perceptions and motivations to work towards common goals.  The current state of the economy and the accelerating rate of change in technology require transformational leadership and the resulting transformed workforce in order to achieve success.


The Components of Transformational Leadership

Researcher Bernard M. Bass expanded upon Burns original ideas to develop what is today referred to as Bass' Transformational Leadership Theory.1  Bass also suggested that there were four different components of transformational leadership.  These are also sometimes referred to as the four I's.

Intellectual Stimulation – Transformational leaders not only challenge the status quo; they also encourage creativity among followers. The leader encourages followers to explore new ways of doing things and new opportunities to learn.

Individualized Consideration – Transformational leadership also involves offering support and encouragement to individual followers. In order to foster supportive relationships, transformational leaders keep lines of communication open so that followers feel free to share ideas and so that leaders can offer direct recognition of each followers unique contributions.

Inspirational Motivation – Transformational leaders have a clear vision that they are able to articulate to followers. These leaders are also able to help followers experience the same passion and motivation to fulfill these goals.

Idealized Influence – The transformational leaders serves as a role model for followers. Because followers trust and respect the leader, they emulate the leader and internalize his or her ideals.2


Dr. Ronald Riggio offers this brief series of questions to determine whether you have transformational leadership qualities (Agree or Disagree):

1. I would never require a follower to do something that I wouldn't do myself.

2. My followers would say that they know what I stand for.

3. Inspiring others has always come easy to me.

4. My followers have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy are infectious.

5. My followers would say that I am very attentive to their needs and concerns.

6. Even though I could easily do a task myself, I delegate it to expand my followers' skills.

7. Team creativity and innovation are the keys to success.

8. I encourage my followers to question their most basic way of thinking.


(Items 1 & 2 = II; 3 & 4 = IM; 5 & 6 = IC; 7 & 8 = IS)3




1. Bass,B. M,(1985). Leadership and Performance. N. Y,: Free Press. [back]
2. What Is Transformational Leadership?, Kendra Cherry, 07/28/2011 [back]
3. Are You a Transformational Leader?, Dr. Ronald E. Riggio, taken 7/28/2011 from  [back]