Transformational leadership is a leadership style that is, well, exactly what it claims to be: transformational. For businesses to survive and individuals to develop, we need leaders who are eager to break molds and create a vision they’re passionate about and inspire others to be, too. Transformational leaders do just that, and along their journey of motivating and goal-achieving, their followers become leaders themselves. 

Workplaces with a culture of high morale, personal development, and inspiration is what this leadership style promises to deliver. While transformational leadership is not a new style by any means, it’s stood the test of time and continues to be a successful approach to influencing others. Follow along for some of the nitty gritty details of transformational leadership. 

The Roots

Transformational leadership was originally theorized by political historian and leadership expert James MacGregor Burns in his 1978 book Leadership. Burns referred to transformational leadership as a process in which “leaders and followers help each other to advance to a higher level of morale and motivation.” Transformational leaders change organizational culture, and followers are motivated toward a common goal. 

Later in 1985, Bernard M. Bass, leadership and organizational structure scholar, developed Burns’s theory further. Bass identified a way to measure the effectiveness of the leadership style. According to Bass, transformational leadership is measured by its impact on followers. Transformational leaders instill a sense of trust, respect, loyalty, and admiration from those in which they lead. 

Bass also clarified the concept of transformational leadership by identifying four key components: intellectual stimulation, individual consideration, inspirational motivation, and idealized influence. 

The Components 

Intellectual Stimulation: Leaders stimulate followers’ creativity and ability to innovate by challenging them with finding new ways to solve old problems. Followers are encouraged to step out of their comfort zone, think outside the box, and take risks without fear of criticism. Growth and learning are highly valued, and both are built by the opportunity to overcome obstacles and adapt to changes. 

Individual Consideration: As a coach and mentor, leaders are supportive and empathetic to each individual’s needs and concerns. Leaders stress the need for open communication and appreciate productive conversation. A transformational leader recognizes the value of each person on the team and invests in each individual relationship fully. 

Inspirational Motivation: Using their enthusiasm and positivity, a transformational leader has the ability to inspire passion and motivation amongst a group to achieve a common goal. Leaders create purpose for their goals and give followers a reason to believe in the task, work hard for it, and have confidence in their role. 

Idealized Influence: Leaders set an example and are a positive role model for all followers by holding high ethical standards. They follow through with their promises and practice what they preach to their team. In turn, followers trust and respect their leaders and strive to be more like them. 


Transformational leadership places a strong focus on the relationship between leader and follower. Through this relationship, leaders help followers become motivated, achieve goals, and develop leadership skills of their own.

During times of change or struggle, transformational leadership thrives and brings teams together to innovate and succeed. For a deeper look at how you can adopt transformational leadership practices, reach out to Knowted and ask about our executive coaching services

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