Transformational Leadership Definition and Example

Administrative Expert and Creative Writer

James V. Downton was the first to introduce the concept of transformational leadership. But James MacGregor Burns, an American leadership expert, historian and political scientist, is perhaps the most renowned one to popularize this concept. Although Burns introduced this model in 1978, it is still a popular leadership style even today. James Burns described transformational leadership as a leadership style where “leaders and followers make each other to advance to a higher level of moral and motivation.” Burns also described transformational leadership that stimulates the followers to go beyond their own interests. Later, researcher Bernard Bass discussed transformational leadership in more detail. If you are leading a group of people and trying to figure out the best leadership approach, this blog can help. Here, we will describe transformational leadership in detail with the basic definition and example.

Transformational Leadership: Definition and Example

Many of the leadership theories back on that day were based on the give and take relationship between the leaders and the followers. But Transformational leadership theory is different. Transformational leadership is a leadership process that brings positive change in the followers, aiming to develop followers into leaders. In transformational leadership, style leaders influence their followers to work beyond their self-interest and inspire them to bring change in their mindset. A transformational leader inspires his subordinates to come out from their comfort zone and think out of the box. 

Transformational leaders are super positive when it comes to the expectation on their subordinates. They believe that every individual can do their best in order to achieve the combined goal. Therefore, instead of trivializing, they consistently inspire and empower their followers. A transformational leader identifies the strengths and weaknesses of his subordinates by working closely with them and encourages the followers to be the best version of themselves.

Example of Transformational Leadership

A transformational leader defines the goal of his team and measures the strengths and weaknesses of the team members and then develop their strengths and inspire them to achieve the goal in the best efficient way. Here is the example of a few of the world’s renowned transformational leaders –

– Bill Gates

American business magnate software developer, author, and philanthropist William Henry “Bill” Gates III is mostly known to the world as a co-founder of Microsoft. He was born in Seattle, Washington. Bill Gates is also the co-founder of the world’s largest charity, Bill & Melinda Gates. His idiosyncratic leadership approach at Microsoft made him one of the greatest transformational leaders in the world. “Making the workplace feel like your home” is one of his leadership principles. He has a unique and effective leadership approach that helps Microsoft to achieve glorious success.

– William E. Deming

William Edwards Deming was born in October 1900 in America. He was an engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant. But today, the world knows him as the founder of Total Quality Management. He worked for the US government for most of his career as a medical physicist and mathematician. Deming served for the US Army in Japan after WWII, assisting the Japanese in the application of statistical methods and procedures to manufacturing. He aimed to make Japan the world’s industrial leader in five years, but it only took him four. By 1980, Deming had returned to the United States to use transformational leadership models in manufacturing, where his style of inspiring motivating had yielded benefits. He died on December 20, 1993.

Jeff Bezos 

The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, is known as the Prophet of E-Commerce. He is also one of the most outstanding transformational leaders in the world. This American entrepreneur, media proprietor, computer engineer, and commercial astronaut was born in January 1964. His management approach is to encourage employees to think out of the box and develop new ideas. His unique leadership style helped amazon to be one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world. 

Transformational Leadership Components

As we have already discussed the definition and example of transformational leadership, now it is time to know its components. Transformational leadership has four (04)components which are also known as the 4 I’s. They are –

1. Idealized Influence

It is almost similar to charismatic leadership. A transformational leader establishes himself as a role model to his followers so that the followers can fully trust their leader. The leader also inspires his subordinates to be creative and master of their own tasks. Moreover, they inspire and help their followers to become more like their leaders.

2. Inspirational Motivation

Transformational leaders have the ability to present the vision to their followers clearly. The followers are persuaded by the transformational leader’s straightforward and easy-to-understand language, as well as their own image. Therefore, the followers feel the same passion and motivation to achieve the vision.

3. Individualized Consideration

Transformational leaders work closely with each individual of their team and show genuine concern for their subordinates. They try to understand the needs and expectations of every team member and provide them with the best solution. Transformational leaders always keep them open for the followers so that they can communicate their expectations whenever they need.

4. Intellectual Stimulation

The last component of transformational leadership is intellectual stimulation. In this case, the leader pushes the followers to be innovative and creative. A transformational leader empowers his team to explore new ways of getting things done. It helps the followers to learn new things.

How To Embrace Transformational Leadership at Work

Many people believe that many of the attributes of a transformational leader, such as charisma and empathy, are innate. But still, someone can achieve those qualities with hard work and an honest desire to improve the organization. Here are some tips for embracing transformational leadership at work –

  1. Work closely with your people and know each of them on an individual level. Establish a line of communication so that all of your team members can share their opinions with no hesitation. Moreover, take time to connect with them personally by putting your feet in their shoes.
  2. Know the strengths and weaknesses of each individual of your team. Then guide them to overcome their weakness and improve their strengths. Establish yourself as a role model to your followers. Always think positive and be a solution provider.
  3. Cultivate the culture of clear communication. Let each of your subordinates know what do you expect from them. Provide them all the support to match those expectations. In the end, align all the individual goals into a common goal.
  4. Establish a positive and collaborative work environment where everyone will work for a common goal. Encourage employees to give feedback and allow them in the decision-making process. This will motivate them to take ownership of their task. A collaborative work environment is essential to make your employees happy and productive.
  5. Challenge your team members to become innovative and creative. Also, inspire them to think out of the box and innovate new ways to get things done. Allow them to think beyond their regular job and generate new and innovative ideas for the organization.

Transactional vs. transformational leadership Style

People often confuse transactional leadership with transformational leadership. But both are not the same. There is a difference between transformational and transactional leadership. In this section, we will discuss this. 

Transactional or management leadership refers to a leadership style where the leader ensures that the followers abide by all the compliance through both rewards and punishments. On the other hand, transformational leadership is a leadership approach where leaders inspire and motivate followers to be creative and productive through charisma and enthusiasm.  

Transactional leadership focuses on developing the existing culture of the organization. On the flip side, transformational leadership focuses on the change in company culture. 

Transactional leadership is mainly based on planning and execution on the other hand transformational leadership always promotes creativity and innovation. 

Transactional leaders ensure that the followers abide by the rules and regulations of the organization, alternately transformational leadership aims to develop the followers more like their leader. 

Finally, transactional leadership is reactive but transformational leadership is proactive. 


Finally, transformational leadership is undoubtedly one of the most effective leadership approaches. It is a combination of empathy, charisma, inspiration, motivation, innovation, collaboration and communication. However, the term “transformational leadership” requires more definition especially when a leader is categorized as transformative or transactional.

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