The 4 Elements of Transformational Leaders
What makes a leader great? How are leadership and parenting similar?
Posted November 15, 2014 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader
We know what makes leaders effective. It’s all about relationships. Transformational leadership theory is the most widely studied of all theories of effective leadership.
Originally focused on leaders who "transform" groups or organizations, transformational leaders focus on followers, motivating them to high levels of performance, and in the process, help followers develop their own leadership potential. They transform organizations and transform individuals. But how do they do this?
The first element is to Be a Positive Role Model. In leadership jargon, this is called “Idealized Influence.” The leader serves as a positive role model for followers (“I want to be like my leader”). Moreover, the leader is admired because she or he “walks the talk”—in other words, the leader wouldn’t ask followers to do something that he or she wouldn’t do, and the leader never says one thing and does another.
The second element is Inspirational Motivation. Transformational leaders have the ability to inspire and motivate followers. Combine this with Idealized Influence, and this is the source of the transformational leader's charisma.
The next two elements are about the leader-follower relationship.
Individualized Consideration is when transformational leaders demonstrate genuine concern for the needs and feelings of followers. This personal attention to each follower is a key element in bringing out their very best efforts, and in developing the follower’s leadership potential.
The final element is called “Intellectual Stimulation.” The leader challenges followers to be innovative and creative. A common misunderstanding is that transformational leaders are "soft," but the truth is that they constantly challenge followers to higher levels of performance.
These last two elements are also the keys to good parenting—meeting the individual needs of each child, and stimulating each to rise to life’s challenges.
Research evidence clearly shows that groups led by transformational leaders have higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders. Why? Because transformational leaders hold positive expectations for followers, believing that they can do their best. As a result, they inspire, empower, and stimulate followers to exceed normal levels of performance. AND, transformational leaders focus on and care about followers and their personal needs and development.
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Bernard M. Bass & Ronald E. Riggio (2006). Transformational Leadership (2nd ed.). Erlbaum.