Leadership expert James McGregor Burns introduced the concept of transformational leadership in his 1978 book, “Leadership.” He defined transformational leadership as a process where “leaders and their followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation.”
Bernard M. Bass later developed the concept of transformational leadership further. According his 1985 book, “Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations,” this kind of leader:
- Is a model of integrity and fairness
- Sets clear goals
- Has high expectations
- Encourages others
- Provides support and recognition
- Stirs the emotions of people
- Gets people to look beyond their self-interest
- Inspires people to reach for the improbable
More than 25 years after Bass’ book, transformational leadership is often argued to be the most important ideas in business leadership.
Before Bass there was Abraham: He demonstrated transformational leadership
- The major accomplishment of Abraham was to spread the belief in a single God in a world filled with paganism
- Today’s world has been dramatically changed because Abraham spread monotheism and the accompanying philosophy of caring for one’s fellow human being.
- His philosophy eventually became institutionalized as the law of “you shall love your fellow as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).
- The traits of Abraham: The same characteristics that any transformational leader needs to change an organization and these match Bass’ list: a vision, some charisma, confidence, courage, a willingness to be different, concern for others, and a willingness to make great sacrifices for one’s vision.
Practice these four elements of transformational leadership:
- Intellectual Stimulation – Lead by attracting collaboration
- Inspirational Motivation – Lead by casting vision in communication
- Idealized Influence – Lead by walking the walk. Be authentic.
- Individualized Consideration – Lead and function with empathy. Listen, Understand, Engage.