Last updated on July 9th, 2024 at 03:25 pm

by Dr. Tim Glaid

In their classic text, Transformational Leadership, authors Bass and Riggio explained:

“Transformational leaders…are those who stimulate and inspire followers to both achieve extraordinary outcomes and, in the process, develop their own leadership capacity. Transformational leaders help followers grow and develop into leaders by responding to individual followers’ needs by empowering them and by aligning the objectives and goals of the individual followers, the leader, the group, and the larger organization.”

I had the pleasure of working in the business community for nearly 40 years, (and with a slight overlap) sharing my experiences in university and college classrooms for the more than 15 years.  Throughout this half century, I have witnessed my fair share of times when subordinates are elevated to managerial roles, and at times, surpassed their immediate supervisors.  I personally have been promoted to manage past bosses.  I have also had past subordinates become my supervisors, managers, and leaders.

Previously, I have shared my personal theory of leadership, with my personal definition requiring all five major tenets:

  • Anticipatory/visionary
  • Motivator/inspiring
  • Passionate/dedicated
  • Selfless/unifier
  • Accomplished/change master

Given that leaders are selfless, they should gladly agree to mentor, develop, and prepare their own followers into leadership roles.  True leaders place priorities on the members of their organization, ahead of personal gain or standing. This relationship as the leader transforms followers into leaders, is not a new reality.  In fact, nearly 400 years BC (before Christ), Socrates coached, trained, and develop his student, Plato.  Socrates helped to develop Plato’s philosophical standing in local and world circles.  After Socrates’ forced suicide, Plato traveled in Southern Italy, Sicily, and Egypt studying with other philosophers and mystic mathematicians using the skills and training he received from his master.  At 40 years old, Plato then returned to Athens and founded his philosophical school, moving beyond the precepts of Socrates.  Thus, the student became the new master.

Leadership expert, Dr. James McGregor Burns, initially introduced the concepts of transformational leadership, which can be seen when leaders and followers help each other advance to a higher levels of morality and motivation.  Through the strength of their vision and personality, transformational leaders can inspire followers to change expectations, perceptions, and motivations to work towards common goals.  And in doing so, the followers acquire new skills and talents that enable their effectiveness in leading others.

Later, researcher Bernard M. Bass expanded upon Burns’ original ideas to develop what is today referred to as Bass’s Transformational Leadership Theory. According to Bass, transformational leadership can be defined based on the impact they have on followers. Transformational leaders, Bass suggested, garner trust, respect, and admiration from their followers.

Bass also suggested that there were four different components of transformational leadership.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 the unique contributions of each follower.
  3. 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.
  4. Idealized Influence: The transformational leader serves as a role model for followers. Because followers trust and respect the leader, they emulate this individual and internalize his or her ideals.

So what are some typical signs of a transformational leader? Groups led by this type of leader tend to be both successful and loyal. They give a lot to the team and care deeply about the group’s ability to accomplish its goals. Turnover tends to be quite low as transformational leaders are able to inspire a great deal of commitment in their followers.

Are you a leader within your organization?  Do you have followers that look to you for vision and direction, inspiration, motivation, and to serve as a moral compass?  Do you support others in order to create positive change for the good of the organization?

When you learn new things, do you share those new things with others, and specifically your followers?  Do you help others learn, grow, and develop; even if they become better in their role than you in yours?  If so, congratulations, as you may be a transformational leader!

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