One of the most pervasive management models today, transformational leadership relies on the ability to inspire and motivate. It is based on research connecting charisma and leadership initially conducted by Max Weber in 1948 and expanded upon by Sir McGregor Burns in the 1970s. The model is structured around four key concepts or styles, often referred to as the "four I's": idealized influence, inspirational motivation, individual consideration and intellectual stimulation.
Idealized influence, in its most basic form, means becoming a role model. Transformational leaders demonstrate desired actions by living these actions each and every day. Sometimes referred to as "walking the talk," idealized influence hearkens back to Max Weber's original research on charismatic heroes. Weber found that history's most effective leaders were perceived as the best at what they do, an ideal to which employees or followers aspire. Transformational leadership applies this concept to the workforce.
Inspirational motivation requires commitment to a shared organizational vision. Transformational leaders inspire employees to work harder and smarter in order to fulfill this vision. Success in this dimension requires a certain level of charisma in order to develop influence into action. Leaders create an atmosphere of teamwork that encourages co-workers to action in order to realize the larger company vision. Whereas idealized influence promotes the vision and showcases the right way to act, inspirational motivation encourages employees to take real action to make the vision a reality.
Almost every organization -- explicitly transformational or not -- uses individualized consideration in some form to teach or enhance the skills required for success. Coaching, mentoring and advising are all examples of individualized consideration. Transformational leadership challenges leaders to identify and fulfill employee needs to better the overall organization. The goal is to uncover and leverage the critical skills employees possess into assets for realizing the organizational vision. It requires a basic understanding of employee needs and motivations.
Intellectual stimulation recognizes that without creativity and innovation, long-term success is impossible. Transformational leaders encourage new ideas and fresh approaches to existing organizational problems. Challenging long-held notions is encouraged rather than punished. Managers facilitate intellectual stimulation by continuously demanding higher performance and better results. In an ideal organization, one that provides all the tools required to meet these challenges, employees respond with innovative solutions that help the organization exceed expectations and outshine its competitors.
- University of Florida IFAS Extension; Transformational Leadership: The Transformation of Managers and Associates; John Hall, et al.
- "Psychology Today"; Are You a Transformational Leader?; Dr. Ronald E. Riggio; March 2009
- "The Christian Science Monitor"; Transformational Leaders Are Not Always Better; Joseph S. Nye, Jr.; March 2008
- New Mexico State College of Business; Transformational Leadership; David M. Boje; December 2000
Since 1990, Laura Barten has been writing about health care, marketing, finance, work life, travel and the arts for industry-leading companies, nonprofits, newspapers and websites, including USAToday.com and Chron.com. As president of a marketing consulting firm, she's developed business/marketing plans, books, magazines, press kits and more. Barten holds a BA in journalism and an MBA in marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.