You may have heard a bit about transformational leadership by now, but what is a Transformational Leadership Definition?
Well it is easier to give examples and characteristics than definitions. That is because definitions vary. You may know what a giraffe is when you see one, but how would you define “giraffe?”
I will present you with a working definition, but don’t be alarmed if you encounter slightly different definitions elsewhere. The main objective is that you know how to recognize it when you see it.
The Founder’s Transformational Leadership Definition
Transformational leadership founder James McGregor Burns’s work on political leaders was published in 1978. In his book, Burns distinguished between ordinary transactional leaders and extraordinary transformational leaders. His research found that Transactional leaders exchanged tangible rewards for the work and loyalty of followers. While transformational leaders engaged with followers, focused on longer term and more meaningful needs, raised awareness about the significance of specific outcomes, and inspired followers to think about new ways in which those outcomes might be achieved.
We might therefore posit a transformational leadership definition that says that transformational leadership is leadership that is not transactional. We define it by what it is not.
Another way of defining it is how it appears in practice. A working transformational leadership definition might be “a style of leadership that empowers workers and empowers them to improve both the company and their own lives through their work.”
Another Transformational Leadership Definition
Here is how the Business Dictionary defines transformational leadership: “A style of leadership in which the leader identifies the needed change, creates a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executes the change with the commitment of the members of the group.”
The best way to understand transformational leadership, may be by looking at examples from the lives of people who are considered to be transformational leaders, like Oprah Winfrey, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela, and Ghandi. Find more transformational leadership examples here.
Have you ever worked in a company that seemed to have a transformational leadership approach? If so, what is your transformational leadership definition? Share in the comments.