What is Transformational Leadership?

Is transformational leadership simply “expert” leadership in action or is it different in some way? Do transformational leadership traits add significant value?


Within business there is a significant difference between effective management and inspirational leadership. Much has been written outlining leadership styles and differences between management and leadership. However, the skills, actions and disposition of leaders looking to motivate and engage teams faced with a significant “transformation” seem key to any successful business transition.

The transactional style of leadership was first described by Max Weber in 1947 and then by Bernard Bass in 1981. This style is most often used by the managers. It focuses on the basic management process of controlling, organising, and short-term planning.

Transformational Leadership

  • Public and private acknowledgement of achievements (higher-level needs)
  • Delegates tasks for supporters to act autonomously or in small groups
  • Encourages creative change and thinking
  • Concerned with ideas over processes

 Transactional Leadership

  •  Rewards and punishments (low-level needs)
  • Micro-manages teams to ensure pre-set standards are met
  • Avoids change, works to keep things the same
  • Concerned with processes over ideas

The leadership continuum was originally written in 1958 by Tannenbaum and Schmidt and was later updated in the year 1973. Their work suggests a continuum of possible leadership behaviour available to a manager and along which many leadership styles may be placed. The continuum presents a range of action related to the degree of authority used by the manager and to the area of freedom available to non-managers in arriving at decisions.


It is said that poor leadership makes life worse for all employees. Transactional leaders focus on making today better by rewarding good performance. Transformational leaders are focused on making tomorrow better. They do this in four ways:


Transformational leaders create a noble vision to work towards that inspires others. This vision is frequently referenced in their daily activities.


Transformational leaders are authentic in their interactions with their team. Their integrity inspires team members to take action.


Transformational leaders help cultivate their team’s professional and personal development. They invest time and energy, knowing the effort will eventually bear fruit.


Transformational leaders encourage their team to think creatively, work with flair and embrace originality. They allow measured risks, which foster innovation.

Teams with transformational leaders are changed for the better. Do your business leaders works towards a noble vision? Act with authenticity and honesty? Adopt a growth mindset? Promote creativity and new ideas?

Successful transformational leadership frequently demonstrates why change is necessary, promotes a common vision, leads change in an organised manner and successfully integrates the change.

If these principles are followed and frequently encouraged your organisation will be demonstrating a very high level and effective leadership which will motivate and engage others. Many other studies conclude that such a leadership style can also lead to enhanced levels of employee well-being. That certainly can’t be a bad thing for business growth and success.

Just one word of caution. Great change and achievements have been made through energetic leaders but passionate people who believe in a direction and cause may be wrong so it is important to rebalance and check the goals and direction at regular intervals. Paradoxically, the energy and enthusiasm that generates employee and team engagement can also cause them to give up. Transformational leaders often have large amounts of enthusiasm and drive which, if relentlessly applied, can de-motivate.

Transformational leaders see “The big picture”, but not all the details. This can create significant implementation and operational problems. If they do not have competent people to assist with the information/data side, failure can quickly follow.

It may be obvious but transformational leaders seek to transform not maintain the “norm” or “BAU” status. Like wartime, when the organisation does not need transforming and people are happy as they are, a leader will be frustrated. However, given the right situation they can save an entire company from the brink of failure.

If you would like to explore how Crux House could help your business please do get in touch on 0844 334 5186 | info@cruxhouse.co.uk| cruxhouse.co.uk

Posted by Mark Francis
Mark Francis

at April 24,2014

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