From Chapter 2 of the essay All Shine: How Stewardship Built a Vision
Transformational Leadership This style of leadership has powerful pros and cons. In a time of crisis or change, transformational leaders can build inspiration, commitment and a can-do attitude in those who are part of an organization or project. Much has been written about transformational leadership, and there are quite a few insights offered by leadership scholars about what transformational leadership looks like and what specific behaviors, attitudes and strategies this style entails.
James MacGregor Burns, a presidential biographer and leadership expert introduced the idea of transformational leadership decades ago, and his framework was further expanded by the work of Bernard M. Bass. Other leadership scholars have further studied the phenomenon, which has led to a further illumination of the key behaviors of transformational leaders. Below is a list developed by these researchers of the four key behaviors. The descriptions are in my own words, but the categories are drawn from the literature.
Key Behaviors of Transformational Leaders
- Individualized Consideration – The transformational leader carefully studies his followers and searches for their gifts and strengths. Once he understands what they are capable of -and perhaps where their growing edge lies- he works steadily and consistently alongside each individual and helps to transform the latent gifts into fully realized personal visions. No one in the organization or group project is left to his own devices. Followers are individually cultivated to be the best they can be.
- Intellectual Stimulation – Transformational leaders provide a compelling framework for the way forward, clarifying and transforming visions and goals. The key here is to stimulate the thinking of the organization by satisfying the intellectual appetites of the team. Ideas are carefully crafted with an eye on the mission, and virtually no ground is left uncovered. There is no ambiguity around “why we are here.”
- Inspirational Motivation – To be truly transformational, a leader must inspire her followers. This behavior is similar to individualized consideration, but the key difference is that the attention is paid to the macro-ideals and values that inform the organization’s mission and goals, in addition to the micro-attention to individuals characterized by individualized consideration. Here, the transformational leader points to societal goals, shared values, and humanity’s deepest aspirations. Inspirational motivation goes a long way in transforming an organization, especially in times of crisis.
- Idealized Influence – This aspect of transformational leadership brings to light the centrality of the leadership-followership paradigm in this style. There is no question that there is a key figure in the organization or enterprise and that she has become the model for the organization’s values, norms and commitments. Simply stated, the leader promotes, expresses and inhabits certain values and behaviors. And the followers -learning by example- eventually emulate and potentially elevate those values and behaviors. Put another way, the transformational leader intentionally influences her followers towards the adoption of specific ideals and becomes the expression of those ideals.