Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


How to Turn a Good Leader Into a Great One

What makes a leader great? How can you lead more effectively?

There are many theories of good leadership, but the most popular of these is Transformational Leadership. Made prominent by political historian, James MacGregor Burns in his 1978 book, Leadership, the theory has become the single most studied and applied model of leadership worldwide.

Transformational leaders are exceptional because they are able to motivate followers to outstanding levels of accomplishment through empowering followers and offering them support, but also challenging them. Many transformational leaders are seen as “charismatic,” and most are terrific at developing leader-follower relationships.

By focusing on the 4 components of transformational leadership, we can better understand what truly makes a leader great. But you will also notice that the qualities that make up transformational leadership are also important in developing any individual into a better person.

The first element of transformational leadership is the ability to inspire (the official term is “inspirational motivation”). However, this is not a cheerleading type of motivating, but focusing on the mission, values, and goals of the organization and working to ensure alignment with team members’ values and goals. The transformational leader makes sure that “we are all working together for a shared purpose and the good of all.”

How to Develop Inspirational Motivation:

• Develop a compelling vision

• Be positive and upbeat in your messages

• Always focus on mission and purpose

The second element involves making a strong connection with each individual in the team or group. This component is refereed to as “individualized consideration” and is reflected in the leader’s attunement to the specific goals, needs, strengths and limitations of each team member. Establishing a strong relationship that is built on ensuring that the needs and concerns of the particular team member are met, but that these are consistent with what the team or organization is trying to do.

How to Develop Individualized Consideration:

• Work on active listening – focusing on what others are saying

• Check in with team members regularly

• See things from team members’ perspectives

“Intellectual Stimulation” is the third component of transformational leadership and this involves challenging others to be creative, innovative, and think outside the box. It is through intellectual stimulation that teams led by transformational leaders come up with innovative solutions or achieve goals that are beyond expectations.

How to Develop Intellectual Stimulation:

• Question the status quo or “standard operating procedures”

• Continually ask for others’ input and contributions

• Set challenging goals

I saved the final component for last, because it is critical to your development as a good leader (and a good person). Idealized Influence is the term given to this element of transformational leadership, but it simply means “walk the talk.” Take on the leadership role, display confidence, roll up your sleeves and get involved, and, above all, be authentic! This is the moral/ethical component of transformational leadership and relates to the character of the leader.

How to Develop Idealized Influence:

• Consider different perspectives and points of view in decision making

• Control your emotions; don’t give in to excesses

• Always treat others fairly and give credit where it is due

• Have the courage to do the right thing and to take calculated risks

Leadership development takes hard work and dedication. The model of transformational leadership is a good guide for developing as a leader, and as a person.

Read more about transformational leadership and its assessment here.

Follow me on Twitter:!/ronriggio

More from Ronald E. Riggio Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today