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  • Writer's pictureJenn Donahue

The 4 Parts of Transformational Leadership

What is transformational leadership and why is it important?

Transformational leadership is on the rise. If you don’t know what transformational leadership is, at a high level, it is a style of leadership that centers around:

  1. Encouraging

  2. Inspiring

  3. Empowering

  4. Challenging

  5. Modeling a Good Example

There are different versions of transformational leadership, but the one I connect with most is the four I’s: Individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, and idealized influence.

As leaders dare to rise, they must figure out what type of leader they want to be when they get to the top.

There are many types of leadership models to understand and transformational leadership is a great one to follow.

Transformational leaders are guides that others want to follow and inspire and motivate their people through getting to know the individuals on their team and their needs, using a big vision to inspire action, and believing in the gifts and talents each person brings to the table.

Here are the four stages of transformational leadership:

1. Individualized consideration

If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, it’s probably safe to say that you’ve had a boss that did not take the time to get to know you.

How did that feel?

Maybe it felt par for the course, maybe it felt really devaluing and unmotivating, or maybe it made you feel stuck and frustrated.

This is typically the norm. A boss that leads with efficiency tactics only and does not prioritize individual consideration. This is why transformational leadership is so powerful. In this type of leadership, the leader gets to know each individual on their team or in their organization.

This type of leader takes time to get to know their people and listens to them. They display characteristics of empathy so that they can better understand each individual’s needs, goals, desires, talents, skills, background and behaviors.

Having a boss that does this can truly be life changing.

So, if you’re a leader on the rise, be that boss!

When you consider the needs of every individual, you create trusting relationships, motivated employees, and cultivate followers that actually want to follow you - with enthusiasm!

2. Inspirational motivation

When you rise as a leader, you tend to have big visions that rise with you. The question is, “how do you get others on board with your vision?”

This is where inspirational motivation comes in.

This is the part of transformational leadership that allows you to inspire others to perform beyond expectations. And, because you’ve taken the time to get to know your team, you know how to inspire each of them.

You know what lights them up and you know how to connect their purpose and goals with your vision. This creates huge, meaningful motivation and momentum with your people.

Each person feels like they have skin in the game and are ready to perform at their best because they feel truly inspired to do so. Optimism sky rockets, productivity is off the charts, and the future is bright.

When employees see that your vision is an investment in their abilities, they feel driven, excited, and ready to achieve great things.

3. Idealized Influence

Idealized influence is all about being an example others want to follow. As a leader, this is so important because you are the one everyone is looking to for direction, guidance, and motivation.

And if you’ve ever worked for or with someone who did not practice what they preached, it can be very difficult to respect and trust that person.

If you want to gain the trust of your employees, you have to show them behaviors that they want to emulate. Transformational leaders are role models of high standards and ethical behavior. And when others see this, they are inspired to do the same.

These types of leaders are committed to the vision, mission, and goals of the organization and take consistent action that contributes to the success of these values.

Practicing idealized influence creates deep respect and builds an incredibly strong foundation of trust that allows you and your team to rise to your greatest heights.

3. Intellectual Stimulation

This piece of transformational leadership is very attractive right now because it’s what millennials want!

Intellectual stimulation in leadership is being open to new ideas, innovative thinking, and creative solutions. This type of leader supports and collaborates with their teams to come up with new approaches to old solutions.

This type of leader also encourages autonomy (a big appeal to millennials) and independent thinking so that individuals can solve problems on their own and feel confident in doing so.

If a leader practices intellecttual stimulation, the followers feel able to express their thoughts out loud and feel heard. This creates a culture of inclusivity and tends to progress workplace cultures in a positive way that sees results quicker. Teams feel valued for their individuality and contributions and leaders get to choose from a wide range of solutions instead of forcing what they think is best.

Transformational leadership vs. Transactional leadership

Transformational leadership can be revolutionary. It is a leadership style “where a leader works with followers to identify the changes needed, create a vision through inspiration, and execute the change with a group of highly committed followers.” - Penn State

Transformational leaders tap into the potential of their people and empower others to reach goals together.

This style of leadership is not to be confused with transactional leadership. Transactional leadership is a style of leadership where leaders prioritize hierarchy and chain of command instead of collaboration. Transactional leaders focus on efficiency, goals, and expectations instead of empowerment, creativity, and connection.

To learn more about the difference in the two leadership styles, Michigan State has a great article here.

If you are a leader on the rise, it’s important to learn about all the different styles of leadership so that you can choose which style works best for you. You can also pick and choose from different styles. When you find your true authentic leadership style, that’s when you can lead your followers wherever you want to go.


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