Transformational Leadership

My PhD work at Clemson involved a great deal of organizational theory, and I ran across a quick motivational photo on LinkedIn that reminded me of Bernard Bass’ Transformational Leadership model.

Here’s the image:

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Though not verbatim, these 5 characteristics best describe Transformational Leadership (TL).

First, let’s explain what TL is not. It isn’t charismatic leadership – bending the will of your employees or colleagues by sheer force of charm or mesmerizing them. I saw this sort of leadership at play in a former career, where everyone was jumping on the bandwagon to take the FranklinCovey seminars and become masters of their day-planners. It was a charismatic movement. Individuals were trained by the FranklinCovey staff and given a captive audience of colleagues to teach. These trainers became gurus, and inspired their students to become trainers as well. The focus seemed to be more on the process, product sold, and the individual teaching moreso than the content or mastery itself.

So what is Transformational Leadership?

It is based on 4 moral components:

  1. Inspirational motivation
  2. Idealized influence
  3. Individualized consideration
  4. Intellectual stimulation

It is further based on 3 moral aspects:

  1. Moral character
  2. Ethical values
  3. Morality of the process

I remember a quote from a case study: the purpose of the leader is to “enable others to thrive.” Not to cast the spotlight on oneself. The focus is on the process and the goals, getting there as a team, and activating team members’ higher-order needs.

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