The easiest way to understand what transformational leadership is, probably is to study the lives of good transformational leadership examples.
Where definitions confuse, and characteristics overwhelm, examples bring clarity. People understand people, far better than we understand theories.
Here are a few widely accepted examples of transformational leaders to get you started (You may not agree with them all… and I know I don’t… but you should still get a pretty clear idea what people are looking for in declaring someone a “transformational leader.”)
Inspiring Transformational Leadership Examples
Martin Luther King, Jr. – Human Rights Transformational Leadership Examples
It is hard to argue that Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most influential leaders of our age. Within a nation with hundreds of years of history of a system of laws that were applied differently dependent on circumstance of birth—often with brutal, life-ending consequences for those of “unfortunate” birth—he inspired the very people most privileged by that system to call for its end. To inspire people to give up their own privilege in the name of fairness and justice is a powerful mark of a leader. He inspired people to change themselves, and become better people, even as they created a better nation.
Oprah Winfrey – Business Transformational Leadership Examples
Born to a poor family, Oprah Winfrey is an inspiring example of the American Dream brought to life. Because she is both female and African-American, she provides an even more powerful inspiration to members of two groups who have historically had most reason to doubt their possibility.
She is well known to be very supportive of the personal development of her staff, and has built a billion dollar empire by essentially working to better the lives of as many people as she can. She has primarily used the media to do this, but also has founded numerous charitable organizations, including free schools for poor girls in South Africa.
Gandhi – Human Rights Transformational Leadership Examples
Mahatma Gandhi was born to a wealthy merchant family in India during the British occupation. He was also trained as a lawyer. He turned his back on his privilege and worked to instead bring freedom and opportunity to those of much humbler circumstances.
At great personal sacrifice, he set a transformative example of what it meant to live as a free man in defiance of the British dominance and phsyical force used to stop his peaceful protests. In the end he inspired enough Indians to rise up to peacefully resist oppression, that the British left India, restoring its independence.
Not only did Gandhi’s actions lead to freedom for India, but led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi is one of the leaders that inspired Martin Luther King, Jr., who has similar success with non-violent civil disobedience.
Eleanor Roosevelt – Political Transformational Leadership Examples
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was an American politician, diplomat, and activist. She was the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, holding the position for her husband FDR’s 4 terms in office. (They changed the law to limit the number of times one person could be president to two subsequently.)
She was orphaned in childhood, but that did not stop her from pursuing an education and running the office of the president when her husband with stricken with polio, and unable to fulfill the functions of office himself.
Eleanor Roosevelt continues to be an inspiration to women and girls. Though her country of birth, the United States of America, has yet to see an official female president as of this writing, Roosevelt stands in history as the first woman to effectively run the country as president.
She was the first “First Lady” to hold press conferences, write a syndicated newspaper column, and speak at a national convention. She advocated for expanded roles for women in the workplace, the civil rights of all Americans regardless of race, and the rights of World War 2 refugees. After her husband’s death, she remained active in politics, even chairing the first United Nations (UN) commission on Human Rights.
Who else would you add to this list of transformational leadership examples?
About the Author: Indigo O. Dutton is a business consultant and trainer with over a decade of experience helping clients achieve their business objectives effectively. Find out more about her work at http://aspiratech.net/salesforce_training.html. Or follow her on Twitter at @IndigoOcean