Are you a Transformational Leader?

Successful Leaders


The world has ample articles and text on the habits of great leaders like some of them waking up at insane early hours, some of them having just one meal a day, a few wearing the same set of clothes etc. while displaying traits like integrity, self-awareness, charisma, motivation, empathy etc. If there is a need to cite articles, a simple Google search will reveal thousands of articles from research scholars, to leading publications, to journalists and sometimes from the leaders themselves. The point is that the sheer volume of information is over-whelming and there is a need to build a framework or enumerate these traits and behaviours based on evidence based research.

We are also privy to the existence of leadership Theories such as Transformation Leadership , Transactional Leadership, Authoritarian Leadership, Participative Leadership, Delegative Leadership etc. and that adds more complexity to the concept of leadership. This article will put emphasis on “Transformational Leadership” and will endeavour to define the components citing evidence based research while at the same time, ensuring the contents are relevant to the present day and age.


Transformational leadership is a leadership theory that has its roots in the work of Max Weber (1963) on charismatic leadership and James V. Downton (1973) on the topic of rebel leadership (Yammarino, Spangler & Bass, 1993) but it was James MacGregor Burns who brought to light the difference between transactional leadership and transformational leadership. As per Burns, transactional leaders attempt to fulfill the present needs of the followers (Yammarino, Spangler & Bass, 1993) or direct efforts towards the immediate self-interest of the followers (Bass, 1990) while transformational leaders motivate and inspire followers for greater goals and lead visible and dramatic changes of individual, groups and organizations (Yammarino, Spangler & Bass, 1993).  

Bass puts the difference thus, transformational leaders put focus and energies’ on what you can do for the country while transactional leaders focus on what the country can do for you (Bass, 1999). Burns, through his research was focused on how leaders had the potential to raise the levels of morality and motivation of the followers to higher levels specifically indicated in the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Mulla & Krishnan, 2009). So what constitutes transformational leadership? Let us look at its vital components.


Inspirational motivation is defined as the strength with which the leader is able to articulate a vision for the future wherein the followers are also able to identify their personal ambitions in the same. The leader should be able to clearly indicate and inspire the followers to believe that their current roles are important steps to achieve the desired goals (Bass, 1999). 

The transformational leader challenges his followers or sub-ordinates at work-place or within any institution to bring the best of out of themselves which in turn leads to enhanced performance (Korejan & Shahbazi, 2016). The followers hence become inspired with the vison and intrinsically motivated to contribute to the grand vision


When a leader is able to envision a desirable future with a vision that is well articulated, that finds resonance with the followers and that has a clear road-map on how the same can be achieved, the leader becomes a role model gaining admiration, respect and Trust (Bass, B. M. 1985). 

The leader must also follow up with the vision by leading from the front, by setting high standards of work and performance, laying down precedence through demonstration while exhibiting confidence and determination. These are important components for the followers to identify themselves with the vision and the leadership quest (Bass, 1999).


Individualized Consideration is achieved when the leader is able to pay close attention to the developmental needs of the followers and  are able to receive coaching and mentoring for their development (Bass, 1999). The same can be achieved through assignment of special projects, tasks and challenges to close the capability gaps.

Individualized consideration is important for cementing trust in the leader- follower relationship since it fulfills the need for appreciation, enhances self-esteem and self-worth for the followers which strengthens the relationship.


The leader has to have the constitution to challenge assumptions, question the status-quo and encourage followers in pursuit of creativity and accomplishment of goals. The leader must inspire the follower with a framework on how everyone’s effort contributes to the achievement of the overall vison (Odumeru & Ifeanyi, 2013).

Intellectual Stimulation is said to have been achieved when the leader is successful in not only garnering a strong followership but when the same followers become more creative and innovative through the efforts of the leader towards the fulfillment of the larger vision (Bass,1999).

Theory Y and the alignment to Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership has been seen to enhance and reinforce motivation, morale and performance of the followers and this is achieved when the individual concept of self and identity of the followers aligns with the overall collective identity of the organization (James, O. A., & Ogbonna, I. G, 2013).

To align the concept of transformational leadership to a modern day management concept, we look at the theory of the human work and motivation pioneered by Douglas McGregor. In his work, McGregor indicated that Theory X is based on the assumption that work is boring, people are not motivated to work and do so keeping their self -interest in mind. While Theory Y indicates that workers are inherently motivated and perform to the best of abilities.

Theory X is more aligned to transactional leadership where managers need to deploy fear while Theory Y is more aligned to transformational leadership where there is trust, respect and internal motivation to perform (James, O. A., & Ogbonna, I. G, 2013).

Transformational Leadership and Organizational Outcomes

It is clearly observed that transformational leadership is about bringing in a change with the combined efforts of the leader and the followers on the premise of a larger vision. Transformational leadership has been seen to positively impact organizational outcomes such as follower job satisfaction, engagement, financial performance, sales performance etc hence while the concepts of transformational leadership have been here for a while, the positive impact it creates have been instrumental for its relevance today and for the times to come



  • Bass, B. M. (1999). Two Decades of Research and Development in Transformational Leadership. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 8(1), 9-32.
  • Yammarino, F., Spangler, W. D., & Bass, B. M. (1993). Transformational Leadership and Performance :A longitudinal Investigation. Leadership Quarterly, 81-102.
  • Mulla, Z. R., & Krishnan, V. R. (2009). Do transformational leaders raise their follower to higher levels of Morality? ASAC.
  • Bass, B. M. (1985). Leadership & performance beyond expectations. New York: Free Press.
  • Korejan, M. M.,& Shahbazi, H. (2016). An Analysis of the Transformational Theory. Journal of Fundamental and Applied Sciences.
  • James, O. A., & Ogbonna, I. G. (2013). Transformation vs Transactional Leadership Theories. International Review of Management and Business Research