Transformational Leadership: What are the Differences that Make a Difference?

Sections of this topic

    The Four Transformational Leadership Behaviors

    According to Bass, transformational leadership is comprised of four primary behaviors. The first is idealized influence, when leaders act in ways consistent with their stated beliefs, goals, and values, following through on commitments, and treating people in a consistent and fair manner. The second behavior is inspirational motivation, when leaders effectively communicate visions for the future of the organization and convey how the work of individuals and teams are connected to the vision. The third behavior is referred to as intellectual stimulation, the leader’s ability to create a work environment where followers feel safe to think creatively, challenge the status quo, and come up with innovative ideas. The final behavior, individualized consideration, is when leaders help followers identify personal development goals and design customized strategies for making improvements on these goals.

    The Impact of Transformational Leadership

    There is empirical evidence that these four behavior areas have statistically significant impact on various indices of organizational performance and business outcomes. In my previous blog it was shared that there is a clear correlation between transformational behaviors and increased innovation, motivation, perseverance, commitment, team cohesion, and performance.

    The Transformational Behaviors that Make a Difference

    So what are the specific behaviors that make the difference that makes the differences? The following are a list of ten behaviors, considered to be transformational, that have an impact on some of the target areas just mentioned.

    1. Challenging and empowering team members to think independently and consider novel solutions to old or emerging problems is believed to increase the innovative capacity of organizations (Nederveen et al, 2010)
    2. Empowering team members to think and act independently has been shown to reduce barriers to the sharing and utilization of knowledge across organizations boundaries (Garcia-Morales et al, 2007)
    3. Establishing a clear understanding of the connection between the tasks/values of team members and the vision/values of the organization is shown to increase individual motivation (Wolfram and Mohr, 2009)
    4. When a leader espouses a high level of ethics and acts in accord with these ethical standards an increase in follower trust and commitment should follow – variables with a direct correlation to performance (Rafferty and Griffin, 2006)
    5. There is an apparent link between the degree to which a leader respects and attends to the emotions and professional needs of team members and the level of team member commitment and performance (Bass, 2006)
    6. Inspirational, enthusiastic, and animated communication of organizational vision has been shown to enhanced team cohesion (Ayoko & Callan, 2010)
    7. Success of change initiatives increase significantly when leaders include team members in the development of the vision for the future and the demonstrate a clear commitment to that vision (Herold, et al, 2008)
    8. Commitment to organizational change initiatives increase if leaders are expressive, confident, and are able to incorporate values into change conversations with team members (Howarth & Rafferty, 2009)
    9. The use of image-based messages and the ability to incorporate organizational goals into a compelling vision of the future has an apparent connection with team performance (Colbert et al, 2008)
    10. Inspiring and empowering team members to embrace and pursue challenging goals and professional development has been shown to improve project success (Prabhakar, 2005)

    The above is evidence of a correlation between specific transformational behaviors and various team member and organizational outcomes. But one must ask, are these behaviors unique to transformational leadership? If not, can it really be argued that there is a connection between transformational leadership and improved organizational performance? Please feel free to share your thoughts or questions on the topic.