Transformational Leadership Style

Like the charismatic leader, the transformational leadership style also inspires others. But, this leader specializes in initiating and delivering change.  This leader also motivates employees to perform at the peak of their ability.

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Some basic characteristics of a transformational leader are that the leader can inspire teams to find better ways of achieving their common goals. They are also generally good at conflict resolution and lead change through example and clear articulation of a motivating vision. This leader can enact changes through their ability to define a clear vision and persuade others.

Book Cover Leadership Burns

In his book “Leadership”, James M. Burns first described political leaders using the term Transformational Leadership.

The term “transformational leadership” was coined by sociologist James V. Downton in 1973. However, the transformational leadership style was first introduced by James McGregor Burns describing political leaders in his book “Leadership” in 1978. Burns defined transformational leaders as those who seek to change existing thoughts, techniques, and goals for better results and the greater good.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Transformational Leadership

Want someone to shake things up in your organization? Need someone that thinks outside the box, but still has the ability to get things done? This is the transformational leader. Transformational leadership works well in organizations where change is needed. The transformational leader works with his or her team to recognize the need for change in a given situation or organization. After identification of the catalyst for change, the leader creates a vision to guide the change through motivation. One of the best uses of this leadership style is in an organization that is outdated and requires serious retooling. It is also a perfect match for a small company that has big ambitions and is willing to adapt, flex, and change to get there.

How does this leadership style compare with your own style? How does it compare to your manager? Whether you are a transformational leader, another style, or a combination of styles below are some advantages and disadvantages to the transformational leadership style to consider:


  • Great communicator of new ideas
  • Good at balancing short-term vision and long-term goals
  • Experienced at building strong coalitions and establishing mutual trust across teams
  • High emotional intelligence and empathetic


  • Could be ineffective in ad-hoc situations
  • Not particularly effective with bureaucratic structures

Yes, there are pros and cons to each of the leadership styles, but understanding the balance is key to being a successful leader. Still unsure about your own style? To learn more about your style as a leader or an aspiring leader, take our short quiz that will give you a sense of your own style. To start the 2-minute leadership style quiz, click here.

Famous Leaders with Transformational Leadership Style

Transformational leaders are all cut from the same cloth. These leaders are bold and persuasive. Below are a few of the many leaders that have displayed the transformational leadership style.

  •   Richard Branson
  •   Steve Jobs, founder of Apple
  •   H. Ross Perot, founder of EDS
  •   Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix
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RECAP: Transformational Leadership Style

The transformational leader is an inspirational leader and change agent. This is the style that can influence hearts and minds to make change happen. The transformational leader is comfortable challenging teams to think differently. They are also at-home traveling upstream or against the grain to accomplish great outcomes for a company or the team.
Want to understand more about your own leadership style? Take our quick leadership style quiz now.

Want to know more about other leadership styles? Select one of these links for more comprehensive information about each style: Situational Leadership | Servant Leadership | Democratic Leadership | Supportive Leadership | Transactional Leadership | Laissez-fair Leadership | Charismatic Leadership | Autocratic Leadership

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