Transformational Leadership

Great leaders are born not made, right?  I think someone said that at some point.  Sure, there are genetic traits we are born with, such as how gregarious a person is, and some of those traits might be more or less beneficial in leadership situation.  That's what personality assessments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator serve to illustrate.  However, there is also consistent research that shows that there are leadership qualities that can be learned and practiced to create highly effective leaders.  

Transformational Leadership provides a great model for examining effectively leadership that not only inspires great work from a group, but also fosters mutual respect and satisfaction between leadership and followers.  It serves as a proactive alternative to traditional management styles that are reactive and fix problems only after they occur, or even worse inactive that never fixes anything.  When employed correctly and consistently, transformational leadership heads off issues before they become problems.

There are four main aspects of transformational leadership:

Inspirational Motivation

A leader who practices inspirational motivation is one who provides an appealing vision that brings the group out of their comfort zone and into high productivity.  This is done with a sense of optimism and inclusion that makes everyone feel like they are a team, together on a path to greatness.  

As an example, the manager of a online store might display inspirational motivation by clearly describing to the team their sales goals as a company and how important each of their roles are in accomplishing that goal.  Although tangible rewards like bonuses can be helpful, the manager could also leverage intangible rewards as motivator, such as the challenge of becoming the highest selling store in their market.

Individual Consideration

Leaders who use individual consideration take on a mentor role with their group.  They use an empathetic approach to providing support to each and every person they're guiding to help provide a sense of purpose.  This also involves recognizing the contributions that each individual provides to the group, which can be done through personality assessment, strength & skills inventories, and recognizing individual aspirations.

As an example of individual consideration in the workplace, a manager would make one-on-one time with their employees a priority.  Setting and sticking to an open door policy can help employees feel like they can always find a welcome ear with their manager.  Additionally, the company can invest in tools that help the team learn about each others’ strengths and then build roles and projects that tailor to those strengths.

Idealized Influence

A leader who practices idealized influence serves as a role model for their team.  They not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk, embodying the values of the group and organization.  They typically go about their work enthusiastically and with optimism.  They would not ask anything from the group that they will not adhere to as well.  

For this example, consider a group with an informal leader; a team of architects working on a project that has a senior staff person who the others look to for advice.  If this admired team member asks the group to be 10 minutes early every day so they’re ready to go at 9:00am, they will be sure to stick to that rule.  The credibility they have built is reinforced when they stick to their word and participate in reaching group goals.

Intellectual Stimulation

Leaders can carry out intellectual stimulation by facilitating innovation and creativity for a group.  They provide opportunities for people to challenge themselves and make the most of their talents.  These leaders not only bring new ideas, but inspire others to be creative and push conventional boundaries.  

One way a manager could practice intellectual stimulation is by hosting innovation workshops, where staff from every level of the organization comes together to brainstorm and discuss new ways of approaching the internal processes of the organization as well as the external messages they send to the public.  This would foster an environment where new ideas and change is welcomed, rather than shunned, which can keep an organization healthy and a step ahead of their competitors.

Transformational leadership is a concept for anyone at any level of an organization.  Employees should always consider how their actions affect and influence those around them.  It can take practice, but imagine the difference it would make if we were all carrying out these four concepts to their fullest extent every day.  Whether we were born leaders or not, let’s make a happy and productive workplace start with us!

Levi Baer

Chicago, IL