Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is leading by motivating. Transformational leaders provide extraordinary motivation by appealing to followers’ ideals and moral values and inspiring them to think about problems in new ways. These followers have felt trust, admiration, loyalty, and respect for them and were motivated to do more than they thought they could, or would do. In essence, transformational leaders make tomorrow’s dreams a reality for their followers.

Perhaps the most important characteristic that transformational users possess is their ability to create a vision that binds people to each other. Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a Dream” speech galvanized a generation to support the civil rights movement in the United States. But transformational leaders must have more than just a vision, “They also have to know which path to follow in order to attain it.” The followers are attracted to the vision and the leader has to have the plan to energize them to reach it.

Vision plays a crucial role and leaders who are totally committed to their vision and course of action are often called charismatic. Charismatic leaders have an unshakable belief in their mission, are confident for their success and have the ability/talent to convey these certainties to their followers. They are in turn, awarded with unquestioned loyalty and obedience.

In our society, we carry a common notion of the leader as a person with the vision, who then gets people to buy in, to align themselves with that vision. This notion is bankrupt and dangerous, because the leaders who have done well for their communities and organizations are not the ones who came up with the vision. If we picture them as the conductor of the orchestra, they are good at embodying the soul of the music. These leaders are good at articulating the transcendent values of the organization or the community. A leader’s vision has to have accuracy and not just appeal and imagination. Articulating a vision for an organization or community has to start with an awful lot of listening, a lot of stimulating of debate and conversation, to distill, to capture the values. It has to start, as well, with carefully diagnosing the current problematic environment to which one needs to adapt.

When changes in the environment occur slowly, usually managers fail to recognize them as threats to their organizations. To become aware of environmental changes, transformational leaders have to frame their vision by providing employees with a new purpose for working. Framing is a process through which leaders define the group’s purpose in highly meaningful terms. In organizations, framing often involves identifying the core values and purpose that should guide employees. For example, at Walt Disney the core purpose is simply “to make people happy.”

Impression management involves an attempt to control the impressions that others form about the leader through behaviors that make the leader more attractive and appealing to others. Impression sounds manipulative and sometimes is. On the other hand, it is also a natural and sincere expression that reveals to followers an alignment between the vision and the person. Integrity, for effective leaders is just that. Revealing how the message the followers hear is related to the personal experiences of the messenger. Telling a story or stating a clear example, can become a particularly effective way to manage impressions–according to some it is the essence of charisma.

With or without the authority, exercising leadership is risky and difficult. Instead of providing answers as a means of direction, sometimes the best you can do is provide questions, or face people with the hard facts, instead of protecting people from change. Often you need to make them feel the pinch of reality, otherwise why should they undergo a painful adaptive learning process? But, people often resist doing adaptive work and painful learning. They resist in a number of typical ways. If you want to lead others, you need to understand how to counteract these types of resistance.

Transformational leaders are more effective when the company is new or when its survival is threatened. The poorly structured problems that these organizations face call for leaders with vision, confidence, and determination. Such leaders must influence others to join enthusiastically in tem efforts and arouse their feelings about what they are attempting to do.