Transformational leadership: Key to motivation and performance

Leadership StylesGood leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.
— John D. Rockefeller

Now there’s a guy who knew what he was talking about.

And for anyone interested in this Rockefeller-style approach of raising people up to higher performance, consider putting the words “transformational leadership” on your to-do list.

Transformational leadership boosts morale, motivation, and performance by creating a singular sense of identity and purpose for a project, and getting people to embrace it and partake of it. Think e pluribus unum – “from many, one.”

A transformational leader is a role model who inspires others and makes them want to take greater ownership for their work. As such, it requires a heightened understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of people, so the leader can align staff with tasks that enhance each individual’s own performance.

What is transformational leadership?

Social researcher Bernard M. Bass identified four components of this transformational leadership:

  • Intellectual Stimulation – Transformational leaders not only challenge the status quo; they also encourage creativity among staff. The leader encourages people to explore new ways of doing things and new opportunities to learn.
  • Individualized Consideration – Transformational leadership also involves offering support and encouragement to individuals. In order to foster supportive relationships, transformational leaders keep lines of communication open so people feel free to share ideas and so that leaders can offer direct recognition of each staffer’s unique contributions.
  • Inspirational Motivation – Transformational leaders have a clear vision that they are able to articulate. These leaders are also able to help others experience the same passion and motivation to fulfill these goals.
  • Idealized Influence – The transformational leader serves as a role model. Because people trust and respect the leader, they emulate this individual and internalize his or her ideals.

Real-world experience shows that transformational business leadership can result in extraordinary changes in direction.

One common example would be a new chief executive officer revitalizing a company and returning it to profitability.

According to City University of New York professors Hershey H. Friedman and Mitchell Langbert, characteristics of transformational leaders include vision, confidence, courage and a willingness to make sacrifices.

Transformational leadership can also come from organizations. For example, companies that were at the forefront of the computer revolution changed the course of business history.

Transformational leadership really comes into its own in helping to break an organization’s culture, thus creating the capacity for change.

By bringing in entrepreneurial outsiders with a radical approach, leaders can unshackle the business from the ball-and-chain constraints of “that’s the way things have always been done around here.”

Leadership questions to ask

You may already be part-transformational leader? Try this quick test, courtesy of Psychology Today, to see. If most of these statements sound like you, you’re well on your way.

  1. I would never require someone to do something I wouldn’t do myself.
  2. People would say they know what I stand for.
  3. Inspiring others has always come easy to me.
  4. People often tell me my enthusiasm and positive energy are infectious.
  5. People would say that I am very attentive to their needs and concerns.
  6. I delegate most often to help others build their own skills.
  7. Team creativity and innovation are the keys to success.
  8. I encourage everyone to question the basic ways they see things.

This is the last in a series of articles on effective leadership styles. To see the other articles, please go to  6 Leadership Styles That Get Results.

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