Transformational Leadership under the microscope

Jun 9, 2022
Transformational Leadership under the microscope

Is transformational leadership the future of management? Unlike transactional leadership where the leader uses rewards and punishments to motivate his employees, the transformational leader will encourage and inspire his employees by example to achieve the desired changes and move the company forward. Transformational leaders trust trained employees to make decisions in the tasks assigned to them by giving them the space to be creative, always with the long term in mind.

Characteristics of transformational leadership

While the foundations of the model were laid without the 1970s, it was researcher Bernard M. Bass who, in 1985, expanded the concept to include ways to measure the success of transformational leadership.

According to Bernard Bass, a transformational leader :

  • Encourages employee motivation and positive development.
  • Promotes an ethical work environment with clear values, priorities and standards.
  • Builds corporate culture by encouraging employees to move from an attitude of self-interest to a state of mind where they work for the common good.
  • Emphasizes authenticity, cooperation and open communication.
  • Provides coaching and mentoring, while enabling employees to make decisions and take ownership of tasks.

Transformational Leadership, a Culture of Openness

Transformational leaders understand that success depends on the effort of the entire team and that growth only occurs in an organization with a culture of openness to new ideas at all levels.

This makes it much easier to continuously adapt to changing market conditions. Transformational leaders are constantly looking for creative ways to respond to the dynamic business environment. This is why they are proactive in their approach, know how to take risks and play an active role in the company's progress.

All in all, transformational leadership :

  • Allows the rapid formulation of a vision

This approach differs from other leadership styles in its ability to quickly assess an organization's current situation and formulate a vision for its improvement and growth. Transformational leaders properly communicate their visions to other leaders in their organization and to all employees in order to get buy-in from all teams.

  • Fosters enthusiasm

The trust placed in employees, who are encouraged to constantly innovate, guarantees their self-motivation, thus ensuring a higher level of efficiency and performance.

  • Motivate employees by inspiring them

Passion is a common trait that enables transformational leaders to lead their people to optimize their performance. In difficult times, it is the transmission of this passion to all their teams that will allow the company to get through the difficult times, to bounce back and start again.  

Transformational leadership is attractive on paper, but does it work in reality? Obviously, it does. From Silicon Valley start-ups to the mastodons Google, Apple and Netflix, companies that have adopted transformational leadership are now among the most successful in the world. Does this mean that it can be implemented in all circumstances? Find out. No model is perfect and transformational leadership may not be appropriate because :

  • The devil is in the details

No doubt about it. Taking a global vision is the business of transformational leaders. However, they would be much less at ease when it comes to worrying about the details, which are so precious in the success of a company. Hence the obligation to entrust this task to another (or others) leader(s), which, in organizational terms, is not necessarily easy to do.

  • Too much passion can be detrimental to effectiveness

Passion and emotion are powerful factors in transmitting a vision. But an excess in this area can also lead to covering reality with a filter, especially when it comes to dealing with hard truths about the company's situation. With the disastrous consequences that this can entail.

  • Real possibilities of abuse

As history and its shovelful of dictators have proven, charismatic leaders have not always used their gift to promote the common good. In the hands of a toxic leader, transactional leadership carries real potential for abuse that may be very difficult to counter.

This brings us back to the personality of the leader, an essential parameter for implementing effective, caring, transformational leadership that leads its teams towards a shared goal: the common good.

It should be noted that in addition to transactional and transformational leadership, there are three other common types of leadership .

  • Democratic leadership

The leader makes decisions based on the ideas and contributions of his team, but he always retains the last word.

  • Autocratic leadership

The leader makes decisions unilaterally. He concentrates in his hands the totality of the decision-making power. In this schema, the collaborators are silent and obey.

  • The laissez-faire leadership

In this model, the manager gives employees almost all the authority. But this way of managing can also limit the development of the company.

And you, what kind of leader are you?

Look less, find better.