Transformational leadership is one of the biggest drivers for business success and a better workplace experience. Moreover, the way leaders interact with their workforce and build relationships with their teams significantly impacts employees’ motivation, engagement, and performance at work.
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"Research evidence clearly shows that groups led by transformational leaders have higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders," explained psychologist and leadership expert Ronald E. Riggio in an article for Psychology Today.
In this blog, you will learn more about what transformational leadership is, what are its components, and how transformation leaders are different from other leaders.
What is Transformational Leadership
Even though there are different definitions and theories about transformational leadership, the International Review of Management and Business Research defines it as:
“Transformational leaders pay attention to the concerns and developmental needs of individual followers; they change followers’ awareness of issues by helping them to look at old problems in a new way; and they are able to arouse, excite and inspire followers to put out extra effort to achieve group goals.”
Yet, only 10% of CEOs are natural leaders who guide staff by example.
Leadership expert James McGregor Burns who introduced the concept of transformational leadership in his 1978 book, "Leadership", defines transformational leadership as a process where:
"Leaders and their followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation."
Therefore, transformational leaders create positive change among their team members, they care about employees’ personal interests, and always act in the interests of the group as a whole.
They act as role models, understand their people’s strengths and weaknesses, and often challenge their followers to take greater ownership for their work. All this with the goal to help individuals get the best out of their talent and invested work.
In short, transformational leaders have a great power to influence people and shape a memorable employee experience in the workplace. The followers of such a leader feel trust, admiration, inspiration, loyalty, and respect for the leader.
📚 Learn more about the top leadership skills that make great leaders.
The Importance of Transformational Leadership in Driving Business Success
One of the biggest traits of every successful organization is having leaders who know how to inspire and motivate people. Yet, there are many organizations in which leaders are just figures who have little connection with the rest of the organizations. Moreover, there are companies in which employees are not even aware of who their organization’s C-level executives are.
There are certain characteristics that separate transformational leaders from other types of leadership. According to research, transformational leadership encompasses several different aspects, including:
Emphasizing intrinsic motivation and positive development of followers
Transformational leaders who understand their role in driving business success know how to motivate their people and empower them to keep investing in themselves throughout their careers. Using proper leadership communication and authentic voice, transformational leaders can cut through the noise and gain their followers’ attention.
Raising awareness of moral standards
Great leaders also care about their team’s moral standards. Often times, great performance may not be their main priority and concern. Instead, they continuously work with their teams to uphold high moral standards.
Highlighting important priorities
Outstanding leaders are great at prioritizing work. Yet, many employees still don’t get clear goals and guidance from their leaders. On the organizational level, leaders should always keep the workplace well informed about how the company is doing and where is it heading.
Today, employees expect full transparency from their leaders. Otherwise, employees lose trust in their leaders and employers.
📚 Learn more about how to build trust in the workplace.
Unfortunately, research shows that there is a big transparency gap in organizations. Only 18% of leaders believe they have a transparent and open model; 37% of them are worried about their ability to create trust, 60% of them are worried about workers’ perception of transparency, and 27% of them believed that there is a competitive disadvantage due to a lack of transparency.
Creating an ethical climate (share values, high ethical standards)
Transformational leaders also shape the ethical climate in their organizations. Moreover, they are responsible, through consistent workplace communication, to achieve organizational alignment with the company’s EVP ad core company values.
Having everyone on the same page is one of the biggest prerequisites for organizational success. And transformational leaders are the ones who know how to tie organizational values with their employees’ personal values.
Encouraging followers to look beyond self-interests to the common good
When it comes to success, for transformational leaders it’s all about team success rather than individual success. In a world where departments can’t work in silos anymore, and when employees only collaboratively can achieve great results, it is crucial that the leaders nurture that sense of teamwork.
However, due to the emergence of remote work and lack of proper workplace technology, leaders often don’t have a way to keep employees connected, informed, and inspired. Consequently, cross-functional collaboration suffers and employees may get back to their own interests.
Promoting cooperation and harmony
Transformational leaders are able to create the energy and passion that help fuel cohesion among peers and team members. They are responsible for building harmony in the workplace where everyone strives towards achieving the same business goals.
According to James MacGregor Burns:
"Transformational leader needs to have a solid understanding of the necessary goals to be successful and be articulate in explaining those goals and the method to which they are to be achieved."
Yet, many employees still don’t understand what their specific goals are, and they don’t have clear guidance on how to achieve those goals. Without frequent, consistent, and transparent organizational and interpersonal communication, workplace harmony and cooperation are impossible to achieve.
Using authentic, consistent means
Transformational leaders have great communication skills. Their messages are authentic, inspiring, and consistent which enables them to catch their followers’ attention and get their buy-in during important organizational changes and new initiatives.
They often use business storytelling as part of their call to action which helps people appreciate the positive impact of the organization’s vision.
🎧Tune in to learn more about the importance of storytelling in the workplace.
Using persuasive appeals based on reason
Transformational leaders are good at clearly explaining the reasoning behind certain actions taken by the organization. As most people are resistant to change, transformational leaders play a crucial role in driving acceptance among employees during change such as digital transformation.
Through proper corporate communication, leaders can clearly explain why the change is happening, and what are the benefits of the change for both them individually and the organization as a whole.
However, some leaders don’t even know why a certain change is happening, while others don’t have the ability to easily reach employees with the right message, especially if their workforce is distributed.
Providing individual coaching and mentoring for followers
Personalization is crucial for employees’ success, and transformational leadership is all about taking an individual approach in employees’ growth and development.
Therefore, every leader should set aside time to coach their people. When you help your employees find their own solutions, you not only create a skilled team, but you also strengthen their self-confidence and their trust in you.
Allowing freedom of choice for followers
Transformational leadership focuses on empowering employees to make their own decisions and encourages employees’ share of voice. Employees led by transformational leaders feel free to speak up, come up with their own ideas, raise their concerns, and express their needs.
Yet, in many organizations communication still flows one way. Meaning, employees don’t have a way to engage in daily, company-wide, conversations, and to share their own opinions. This mostly happens due to the lack of technology or the complexity of the tech stack within organizations.
The communication ecosystem in companies has become extremely complex, and large organizations don’t have a way to easily reach and engage employees no matter their job functions and locations.
On the other hand, modern employee communication apps enable leaders to connect with their people, help employees stay connected, drive two-way conversations, and stay up-to-date with important company events.
The 4 Elements of Transformational Leadership
There are 4 components to transformational leadership, sometimes referred to as the 4 I's.
- Idealized Influence (II) – This component of transformational leadership describes leaders as role models who know how to embed the qualities that they want to see in their teams. In this case, leaders put their employees’ needs above their own, which is why employees admire, respect, and trust their leaders.
- Inspirational Motivation (IM) – This component emphasizes the leader’s ability to inspire and motivate followers by having and communicating a clear vision for their organization. A transformational leader knows how to inspire employees with clear, simple, and easy-to-understand words. Inspirational motivation is all about driving the team spirit, passion, and optimism around achieving common organizational goals.
- Individualized Consideration (IC) – This component demonstrates the leader’s genuine concern for the needs and feelings of followers. Such personal attention to employees’ needs helps in developing trust among the organization's members, enhancing employees’ growth and development, and driving better relationships in the organization.
- Intellectual Stimulation (IS) – This component focuses on the leader’s ability to stimulate innovation and creativity among their team members. They do so by encouraging bottom-up and upward feedback, empowering employees in decision-making processes, allowing mistakes, and driving employees’ share of voice.
Transactional vs. Transformational Leadership
There are different leadership styles and models among which transformational and transactional leadership styles are well known.
In contrast to transformational leadership, transactional leadership is based on the use of rewards and punishments in order to motivate employees and get their compliance. On the other hand, transformational leadership redesigns the entire workplace experience, the perceptions of organizational values, and it drives employees' motivation and engagement through inspiration and authenticity.
While the transactional approach is based on the "give and take" relationship, transformational leadership is all about the leader's personality, traits, and ability to influence people. They make a change through example, clearly articulate organization’s vision, and enable employees to be the best version of themselves.
📚 Learn more about the difference between leadership and management.
Transformational Leadership and Workplace Communication
As mentioned earlier in this blog, leadership communication is one of the biggest drivers for organizational success and successful change management. Yet, many leaders still don't have a way to easily reach the entire workplace with authentic and engaging communications. They don’t have a way to segment internal audiences, reach employees in a timely manner, make communication more personal, and drive two-way communication in their organizations.
In a Human Capital Survey, 81% of respondents chose the ability to “lead through more complexity and ambiguity” as a required leadership ability for 21st-century leaders. Among those who replied that the new century has unique requirements, 75% said that new technologies are what make 21st-century leadership initiatives distinct from the older generations.
Therefore, the role of technology in enabling leaders to motivate and inspire their followers is significant. Proper employee communications platforms have become must-have solutions for employee-centric organizations that are looking to better align their people and motivate them to do their best. With such technology leaders can:
- Better understand and manage their multigenerational workforce
- Easily segment internal audiences by various criteria such as job functions, locations, interests, languages spoken, and more
- Create personalized news feeds with real-time updates on everything that is going on in the organization
- Enable everyone to join daily conversations and share their voice
- Create and share inspiring content in easily consumable and engaging formats such as video
- Identify internal influencers and drive brand advocacy
- Connect different communication channels into a single platform while ensuring that the right message reaches the right employees at the right time
- Eliminate information overload and enable knowledge sharing
- Manage grapevine communication
- Drive mobile-first employee communications
- Improve readership and employee engagement
- Measure the impact of leadership communication on specific business goals and objectives
If you are looking for a modern, intuitive and mobile-first workplace communication solution, schedule a Smarp demo and learn how transformation leaders use it to inspire their workforce and drive business success.