An individual’s personal characteristics can influence his or her ability to lead. Some studies argue that leaders are born, not made and emphasize, “inadequate leaders cannot be tolerated” (Leaders, 2004). Natural born leaders may still lack the confidence they need to effectively lead (Dempsey, 2007). Therefore, every leader must me be “made” to some degree. Cohen (2010) highlighted Drucker’s view of learned leadership: Drucker emphasized that leadership can and must be learned; however, he also explained that, leadership can only be learned through repetition and application. Leadership varies between individuals because of their interpretations and how they overcame the challenges they had to face.
The definition of transformational leadership has remained constant through several years. Kirimi and Minja (2012) highlight Bass’s (1998) description of transformational leadership as “leadership that creates valuable and positive change in the followers.” However, Luzinski (2011) developed a more formal definition explaining that transformational leadership is systematic because the leaders search and analyze potential changes to identify the most productive changes that will bring about strategic transformation. This leadership method focuses on prioritizing changes that make the largest impact while developing independence among staff members.
Transformational leaders are able to achieve the same goals as transactional leaders using a positive approach. Bass and Avillos (1996) highlight this approach as focusing on developing the followers’ commitment through awareness and education of the important factors necessary to satisfy the higher-order growth needs. Instead of dictating and delegating responsibilities, followers are educated and made aware of the needs, goals, and objectives of the organization. Transformational leaders success depends on their ability to teach through motivational techniques and lead by example.
Life experiences can help an individual develop the personal characteristics of transformational leaders. Luzinski (2011) notes that the ability to successfully transform an organization requires a specific set of skills and attitudes. Kirimi and Minja (2012) identify those skills and attitudes: energetics, enthusiasm and passion as the personal characteristics necessary for transformational leaders. These characteristics allow the leader to fulfill the artistic requirements necessary to transformational leadership (Williamson, 2014). Leaders can increase the passion of the staff members by allowing their energy and enthusiasm to affect their followers. Responsibilities and objectives viewed as mundane and exhausting by leaders will reflect in the same light by followers.
Transformational leaders take a different approach to leadership than traditional practices of transactional leadership. Rowold and Rohmann (2009) explains that transformational leadership focuses on building and maintaining relationships through motivating followers by inducing joy, pride, admiration, and enthusiasm. Developing trust cannot be one sided, the leader needs to gain the trust of the followers as much as the followers should trust the leader. Trust is essentially developed in time, as leaders learn habits, skills, and abilities of their followers they can identify trustworthy followers. Followers follow the same pattern to determine the level of trust they give to their leaders. Ayman, Korabik, and Morris (2009) highlight Judge and Piccolo’s (2004) recognition of transformational leadership as an effective leadership behavior. Effective leadership styles can be difficult to learn and may be reflective of instinct more than a learned behavior.
Transformational leadership uses more personal methods than transactional leadership. Luzinski (2011) defines transformational leadership as a systematic process using purposeful and organized changes to develop an analysis identifying the most simplistic changes that result in the greatest productivity, bringing about strategic transformation. Ultimately, small changes cause organizations to become “transformed” (Luzinski, 2011). Transformational approaches identify the most effective changes that motivate employees to fully support the mission and objectives of the organization.
Motivated followers feel secure in their work and feel valued within their organization. Kirimi and Minja (2012) emphasized, the followers of transformational leaders feel that they are trusted, admired, respected, and end up doing more than expected. Successful transformational leaders’ staff members are passionate, committed, and loyal to their organization because the leader provides individual consideration and does what is necessary to instill those characteristics in followers, including individual mentoring (Luzinski, 2011). Relationships developed in transformational leadership are achieved through the efforts of all the involved parties; not through one-way communication.
The level of trust, admiration, loyalty, and respect affects the level of effectiveness of the organization. Ayman, Korabik, and Morris (2009) highlight that, transformation must be achieved in subordinates and leaders to be effective. Leaders cannot expect changes to transform the organization if they are unwilling to change themselves.
Ayman, R., Korabik, K., Morris, S. (2009). Is transformational leadership always perceived as effective? Male subordinates’ devaluation of female transformational leaders. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 39(4), 852.
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Cohen, W. (2010). Drucker on Leadership: New Lessons from the Father of Modern Management, San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
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Rowold, J. & Rohmann, A. (2009). Transformational and transactional leadership styles, followers’ positive and negative emotions, and performance in german nonprofit orchestras. Nonprofit Management & Leadership, 20(1), 41. doi:10.1002/nml.240
Williamson, D. (2014). Transformational leadership. Leadership Excellence, 31(3), 19.