May 4, 2021

Transformational Leadership — Building Leaders Who Build The Future

If you want to build a company with committed and inspired employees, then you might want to try the transformational leadership style. 


What is transformational leadership? It’s a leadership style that inspires employees to meet their potential and contribute to the success of the group and workplace. When managers use this leadership style, employees take ownership of their roles and are intrinsically motivated to do well. 

The concept of transformational leadership originated in the 1970s. It was first introduced by sociologist and leadership expert James V. Downton and expanded by another leadership expert and presidential biographer, James MacGregor Burns. 


It wasn’t until 1985 that Bernard Bass’ Transformational Leadership Theory emerged. In his theory, Bass' definition of transformational leadership focuses on its effects on others. 

transformational leadership

Transformational leaders can earn their employees’ admiration, respect, and trust. This, in turn, allows them to transform their employees into leaders. 


But how exactly can you apply this in your organization? Read on to learn a few practical transformational leadership tips.  


RELATED: How Types of Leadership Influence the VA Personality You Hire

1. Set and Communicate a Strong Mission and Vision


Transformational leaders can’t just rely on their charisma to inspire employees. Employees need to know that their work is a valuable contribution to a larger goal. That’s why it’s so important to set a clear and strong mission and vision.

It’s important to understand the difference between a mission and vision. A mission refers to the organization’s overarching purpose. It explains why the organization or company exists. 

On the other hand, a vision shows where the company is heading and why it’s heading that way. A company’s vision can change and evolve, but its mission is more or less stable. 


It’s a lot harder to sell a product you don’t believe in (and people can usually tell). To get employee buy-in, the leaders themselves have to be sold on this vision and mission. 

Practical Tips

  • Communicate your company’s mission and vision at the beginning of the hiring process. That way, your prospective employees can decide if the company’s goals are in line with their professional goals.
  • Try to meet with each department and figure out how they can operationalize the company’s vision and mission within their roles. For example, in what way does the Human Resource department contribute to the company’s vision and strengthen the company’s mission? It’s a great way to distinguish yet promote unity among the different teams in your company. Even if they play different roles, everyone has common goals.


transformational leadership

2. Don’t Let Your Personality Limit You


If you ask experts to describe key characteristics of transformational leaders, many of them will say that they’re charismatic. That’s why many managers shy away from this leadership style—they don’t believe that their personalities are built that way. 


And while many people believe that leaders are born and not made, experts disagree. It’s possible to learn leadership skills and even shift between different effective leadership styles. 


Awareness of your personality traits is important—it helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses. However, you must not let it limit your leadership style. It may push you out of your comfort zone, but you don’t have to change your personality to adopt new behaviors. 


Here are a few practical things you can try the next time you’re with your team members:


  • Be more present.
  • Focus on the positive.
  • Dress your role.
  • Share the spotlight with others.
  • Express genuine concern for others.
  • Check your ego and self-interest.


If these things don’t come naturally to you, don’t worry. You’ll get better with enough practice. 

3. Walk the Talk


Being authentic is a key component of transformational leadership. To truly inspire and motivate others, you need to walk your talk. 

If you want your team to behave in a certain way, you need to model it first. It’s very demotivating if employees believe that their leader lacks integrity. 

transformational leadership

One practical tip for this is to openly admit your mistakes and shortcomings. And it’s important to do this without playing the blame game. 


Remember, no one expects their leader to be perfect. Mistakes are inevitable, but they don’t have to define you. Moreover, there’s a lot to learn from mistakes, so you’re doing your team a disservice if you pretend that it didn’t happen.   


On top of that, it helps facilitate healthier relationships in your company. When you’re humble and honest, your team can laugh with you and not at you.

transformational leadership

4. Put Together the Right Team


Like any other leadership style, certain scenarios work best with the transformational style. While this leadership style can work across industries, you need to consider the team composition. 


If you’re working with unskilled workers, they may require more direction and oversight. This doesn’t really go well with the level of employee autonomy that comes with this leadership style. 


So if you want to be a transformational leader, then you need to make sure you put the right team together. You’re looking for a group of people you can mentor or coach rather than train. Otherwise, you may want to try different leadership approaches.


5. Get to Know Your Team


A central feature of transformational leadership is empathy. The first step towards empathy is getting to know both your colleagues and subordinates.


Over time, try to get to know your team on different levels. While it’s important to understand everyone’s role in the company, try to make an effort to know people individually. 

This includes knowing a little bit about their personal goals and background. This is invaluable information. 


When you know your employees, you’re in a better position to support, encourage, and inspire them. On top of that, it also helps you come up with more meaningful rewards to better motivate them. Remember, it’s harder to get behind a leader who doesn’t seem to care about your well-being. 


RELATED: Operationalizing Purpose & Culture for Tangible Results

6. Trust Your Team


If you want your team to trust you, you have to show that you trust them. Here are some ways you can showcase your trust in your team:


  • Don’t micromanage.
  • Honor their autonomy.
  • Foster role or task ownership 
  • Encourage creativity and innovation.
  • Ask for suggestions regularly. 


Transformational leaders are inspiring because they can empower their teams to reach their potential. When you trust your employees enough to give them the freedom to decide how to do their work, you also give them the room they need to come up with new ideas.  

transformational leadership

7. Improve Communication Skills


All leaders need good communication skills, but a charismatic leader needs to have excellent communication skills. They need to be able to articulate their goals with clarity and passion at the same time.  

transformational leadership

A good idea can fail because of poor communication. Here are things you can do to improve your communication skills:


  • Listen attentively and give people your full attention. 
  • Brush up on conflict resolution techniques.
  • Create a safe environment to promote open communication. 
  • Provide multiple feedback channels.


Remember, communication also goes two ways. Your team needs to know that you value and consider their input.  

8. Establish Your Company’s Culture


Company culture can seem elusive if you don’t take an active role in shaping it. It’s important to establish an environment where everyone works towards the common good rather than their self-interest. 


Establishing your company’s culture doesn’t happen overnight. It may seem abstract and overwhelming, so here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • What type of behaviors does your company reward? 
  • What’s the day-to-day work environment like?
  • Do people work together or alone?
  • Does everyone know each other? Or are there cliques in your company?
  • Do you have a lot of employee turnover? What causes it?
  • What are your company perks? Do they excite your employees?
  • Are there professional growth opportunities everyone has access to? (ex: a leadership program)

Your answers will give you a sense of your company’s culture. If certain answers aren’t to your liking (or goes against your company’s mission or vision), then perhaps it’s time to change these practices. 

9. Get Help


If you can’t tell yet, transformational leadership takes a lot of effort and time. It’s more challenging to be this kind of leader when you don’t have a lot of free time.


If you’re serious about taking your team to another level though, then you may want to consider getting some extra help. For example, a virtual assistant can take a lot off of your plate. That way, you can delegate routine administrative tasks that normally take up a lot of time and focus on mentoring your team.


Research shows that employees led by transformational leaders have better performance and higher job satisfaction. If these are the sort of positive changes you want to see in your organization, then you may want to try some of these leadership behaviors. 



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