What Is Transformational Leadership Style?

Last updated on May 29th, 2024 at 10:37 am

Transformational leading style has been rising in popularity in recent times because of its approach to inspiring and motivating individuals to reach their potential and effect change.

The status quo of leadership is to manage tasks and achieve results according to the desired goal. Transformational leadership style takes it further by motivating individuals and pushing them over the edge to success.

This post is going to examine the transformational style of leadership – what it is, its qualities, pros and cons and every other thing surrounding it.

Read about other types of leadership.

Table of Contents

What is transformational leadership?

Transformational leadership style is a type of leadership that is focused on inspiring positive changes in individuals. It involves rallying employees around a grand vision and motivating and inspiring them to achieve it.

Under this style of leadership, the leader injects energy, enthusiasm, and passion into the team who are eager to evolve both personally and professionally.

Why this is a favourite leadership style, especially for employees because it helps them to succeed not just as a group but also as individuals.

It empowers individuals to become leaders themselves by creating a conducive environment that encourages growth and development, where risk-taking, taking responsibility, and learning from it are inculcated in them.

Transformational leadership style is most effective in organizations that value innovation, adaptability, and creativity.

Related: Cultivating Leadership in Relationships

History of transformational leadership style

Transformational leadership has its history in the work of James MacGregor Burns who first made the style of leadership known in 1978 in his book “Leadership.”

He posited that people can be transformed by appealing to their higher values and ideals through motivation and inspiration to achieve great things by their leaders.

However, it was Bernard Bass developed and popularized the concept of transformational leadership style by stretching Burns’ concept and developing a multifactor model of transformational leadership.

Related: A Deep Dive Into Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

This multifactor model includes the four main components we are going to discuss.

Hinging on this development, transformational leadership has been very well researched and is found to be a very good effective leadership style in many situations including politics, business, and education.

It is always compared with transactional leadership which is inclined to exchange rewards for performance.

The history of transformational leadership style is still ongoing as there will be refinement and more development as researchers will not stop exploring more ways to motivate followers for great results.

Related: Habits of Mentally Tough Leaders

Components of transformational leadership

Transformational leadership style is characterized by four components as suggested by Bass:

  1. Idealized influence
  2. Inspirational motivation
  3. Intellectual stimulation and
  4. Individualized consideration
  • Idealized influence: This is the transformational leaders’ ability to motivate and inspire individuals through their own personal examples by being role models whose principles and values the individuals admire. In this way, transformational leaders inspire these individuals to emulate these values to become the best version of themselves they can be.
  • Inspirational motivation: Transformational leaders have a clear vision they can present to individuals who are inspired to work towards achieving this vision. It involves creating a vision that is compelling enough to entice the individuals by keying into it and achieving the desired goals.
  • Intellectual stimulation: This involves the transformational leader stimulating the intellect of individuals to think outside the box. The individual’s creativity is challenged and encouraged to be innovative and find new ways of doing things that are necessary for driving change.
  • Individualized consideration: Transformational leaders know their employees individually – their strengths and abilities and tailor their approach according to these abilities.

Transformational leaders encourage communication with individuals so they can feel free to communicate their needs for immediate recognition and support.

Groups under transformational leadership are loyal and successful as they have a lot to learn and gain in the long term and also enjoy the relationship with their leaders.

Related: Causes of Leadership Failure

Traits and Signs of Transformational Leadership Style

Transformational leadership is identifiable by the following signs and traits:

Inspirational: Individuals and team members under this leadership are inspired towards achieving the compelling vision and the leaders believe in their abilities.

Risk-taking: Transformational leaders are not scared of taking risks, in fact, to them, risk opens more paths to understanding a situation and way forward.

Visionary: There is a clear vision presented by the leaders and the team is focused on achieving it.

Supportive: They have support provision and guidance for the team members towards achieving their goals.

Motivating: The leadership motivates the team and individuals to stretch beyond for a larger goal.

Related: Autocratic Leadership Style and its Pros and Cons

Empathetic: They put themselves in the shoes of their subordinates and feel what they feel and understand their needs and address them.

Innovative: They preach innovation and tend to move away from redundant ways of doing things. They love effective and efficient alternatives.

Collaborative: They love collaborative efforts and delegate responsibilities to team members while they build a strong sense of ownership.

Charismatic: Transformational leaders are charismatic – they are likable, charming, and can establish relationships with trust quickly.

Result-oriented: They are energized and driven by the results to achieve and this keeps them going strong. They constantly measure their progress to know where and what to tweak.

Benefits of transformational leadership style

There are many benefits of transformational leadership and the ones on the frontline are as follows:

Increased job satisfaction: It increases job satisfaction and employee engagement

Employees’ motivation: Employees are motivated constantly because they are challenged, empowered and valued, and so committed to increased productivity and quality performance.

Greater innovation and creativity: Transformational leadership style can lead to innovative and creative ways of approaching problems by challenging and stretching employees positively to reach more heights.

Builds strong and cohesive teams: This leadership style can help in building a tight team that is united by purpose and is geared towards the overall vision.

Better performance: Those under transformational leadership perform better and are happier than those under different types of leadership.

Related: Why Democratic Leadership Style Is Key to Team Inclusivity

Sense of empowerment: Group under this leadership feels empowered and this is because the leaders inject energy and a sense of value to see and work towards the goal to achieve.

Better well-being: Employees under transformational leaders have higher levels of well-being as a result of the leader-employee relationship, how they are treated, and the sense of inclusiveness.

Challenges faced by transformational leadership

Transformational leadership is not without limitations. Here are some of the pitfalls it battles:

High level of emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence is a great prerequisite for transformational leaders as it’s necessary to be able to motivate and handle interaction with people of diverse personalities and backgrounds.

Time-consuming: Transformational leadership is time-consuming as it needs to build reliable relationships with individuals and teams and get them to acclimatize with the vision of the leaders and also conform to the approaches necessary for the goals.

Becoming a transformational leader

There are several skills one needs to develop to pass as a transformational leader. Here are some of them:

Clear value and vision: To become a leader who really transforms, you must be driven by strong personal values and a dedicated commitment to influence others toward what is expected to achieve.

Be able to build strong relationships: An aspiring transformational leader should have the knack for connecting and building strong relationships with others. He should have such traits as listening, empathy, self-awareness, trust, and self-control.

Foster a sense of purpose: Transformational leaders inspire and motivate others by helping them understand their own sense of purpose within the organization. To do so, focus on aligning individual goals with the larger goals of the organization, and provide regular feedback and recognition for achievement.

Related: The Power Of Being A Silent Leader

Encourage innovation and creativity: Transformational leaders foster creativity and innovation by encouraging risk-taking, experimentation, and idea generation. Create a culture of innovation by giving team members the freedom to experiment and letting them know that failure is an inevitable part of the process.

Lead by example: Transformational leaders lead by example, modeling the behaviors and attitudes they hope to inspire in others. Cultivate a strong work ethic, be transparent, and put your values into practice in all aspects of your work.

Continuously improve: Transformational leaders are always looking for ways to improve and evolve. This means regularly seeking feedback from others, looking for opportunities for growth and learning, and finding new ways to push boundaries and achieve greater success.

Transactional vs transformational leadership style

Transformational leadership is the opposite of transactional leadership and both are often contrasted.

While transformational leadership is more concerned about inspiring and empowering its team, transactional leadership pays for performance.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of both:

Transformational leadership

  • Uses motivation and inspiration in a charismatic way
  • Uses dignifying intrinsic rewards like esteem and pride
  • More concerned about long-term success
  • Values commitment

Transactional leadership

  • Uses rewards and punishment to motivate
  • Uses pay and promotion as rewards
  • Short-term goals are the focus
  • Focuses on compliance

Related: Referent Power for Effective Leadership

Transformational Leadership Style examples

Nelson Mandela: As the leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, he transformed the country by promoting racial reconciliation and unity.

Mahatma Gandhi: An Indian leader who promoted peaceful resistance and civil disobedience to achieve independence from British rule.

Martin Luther King Jr: An American civil rights activist who used non-violent protest to challenge racial discrimination and segregation.

Jacinda Ardern: The Prime Minister of New Zealand, who has been praised for her empathetic and decisive leadership style, particularly during crises such as the Christchurch shootings and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Justin Trudeau: The current Prime Minister of Canada, who has advocated for diversity, inclusion, and progressive policies, such as the legalization of cannabis and the promotion of gender equality.


A transformational leadership style is a powerful approach to leadership that helps organizations to meet their goals by empowering team members through motivation and inspiration.

It fosters innovation and creativity and creates a strong cohesion in the organization to drive change. Though it is challenging, its benefits make it a favourite for many employees and leaders.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is transformational leadership?

Transformational leadership is a style of leadership that inspires and motivates followers to achieve their full potential by creating a shared vision and values, promoting growth and development, and challenging assumptions and beliefs.

How does transformational leadership differ from other leadership styles?

Transformational leadership differs from other leadership styles in that it focuses on inspiring and motivating followers to achieve their full potential rather than solely on achieving organizational goals. This style of leadership also emphasizes personal growth and encourages followers to challenge their own assumptions and beliefs.

What are the benefits of transformational leadership?

The benefits of transformational leadership include increased employee motivation and engagement, improved performance and productivity, better job satisfaction and retention, and a more collaborative and innovative workplace culture.

How can I develop my skills as a transformational leader?

To develop your skills as a transformational leader, you should focus on honing your communication skills, building strong relationships with your team, cultivating a positive work environment, inspiring and motivating your employees, and promoting growth and development.

Can anyone be a transformational leader?

While some people may be naturally inclined towards a transformational leadership style, anyone can develop the skills and mindset needed to become a transformational leader.

This style of leadership requires self-awareness, empathy, and a commitment to personal growth and development.


  1. What Is Transformational Leadership?
  2. The Qualities Of Transformational Leadership
  3. What Is Transformational Leadership? Definition and How to Apply It
  4. What is Transformational Leadership and Why is it Important?

Pious Clements is the insightful voice behind "The Conducts of Life" blog, where he writes about life ethics, self-development, life mastery, and the dynamics of people and society.

With a profound understanding of human behaviuor and societal dynamics, Pious offers thought-provoking perspectives on ethical living and personal growth.
Through engaging narratives and astute observations, he inspires readers to navigate life's complexities with wisdom and integrity, encouraging a deeper understanding of the human experience and our place within society.