What are the Core Transformative Leadership Characteristics?

Transformative leadership characteristics relate to the ability to motivate and inspire followers, employees, and students. It’s one of the most modern forms of leadership and is widely accepted as one of the best. Read on to learn more about the characteristics of this leadership style.

What are the Core Transformative Leadership Characteristics?

A man is holding a presentation in front of several people during an office meeting.

A transformative leader imparts an inspiring vision of the future


The transformative leadership style is characterized by a high level of coordination, collaboration, and communication between the leader and the followers. It is based on inspiring and motivating others. In addition, this leadership approach emphasizes the significance and worth of the leader's aims, enhances a follower's intrinsic drive, and works well in close supervisory relationships.

What are the eight attributes of a transformative leader?

The eight attributes of a transformative leader are the following:

  • Charismatic
  • Inspiring
  • Creative
  • Moral and ethical
  • Encouraging
  • Open-minded
  • Visionary
  • Hard-working

A great example of an individual who embodies most of the characteristics of a transformative leader is Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks. Schultz envisioned a coffee shop experience that went beyond just serving coffee, focusing on building a welcoming environment where people could come together and connect.

He transformed Starbucks from a small Seattle-based coffee retailer into a global brand synonymous with high-quality coffee and a unique, community-driven experience.

The power of transformative leaders doesn’t simply lie in their own strengths but in their ability to ignite the intrinsic motivation of their followers, nurture them, and help them collaborate toward achieving the best outcomes.

People like Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson were relentless hard workers, ambitious individuals, and dreamers. They paved a path for people to follow them in creating revolutionary technologies that were barely imaginable before them.

What are the four characteristics of transformative leadership?

Transformative leaders are charismatic, provide inspirational motivation to their followers, and can even be seen as role models. They nurture their followers’ talents and encourage creativity and open-mindedness.

Transformative leaders use a style of leadership that works well for achieving projects in the long term. They impart a clear shared vision with their followers, helping them find meaning and purpose within their actions.

Given that they have common goals with their followers, they are open to their team members’ feedback. As a result, followers feel heard and are willing to commit to working toward a shared vision alongside their leader.

In addition, transformative leaders know their followers' strengths and weaknesses and organize their efforts to maximize efficiency.

There are four fundamental transformative leadership characteristics that make it an effective type of leadership.

Idealized influence:

Leaders develop a relationship founded on trust with their followers as well as presenting high ethical and moral standards

Richard Branson, a transformative leader and founder of the Virgin Group, has built businesses in multiple industries, including airlines, record labels, and telecommunications. Branson is known for his adventurous spirit, approachable demeanor, and commitment to his employees' well-being.

Branson is famous for prioritizing his employees and creating a strong company culture based on trust and empowerment. He believes that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers. This dedication to his employees has fostered loyalty and trust between Branson and his team. In times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Branson has been known to [personally reach out](https://www.virgin.com/branson-family/richard-branson-blog/an-open-letter-to-virgin-employees) to employees to offer support and encouragement. His approach to leadership has played a significant role in the success and growth of the Virgin Group.

Inspirational motivation

Transformative leaders help followers find meaning and purpose in their work by presenting a clear shared vision and helping them nurture their intrinsic motivations. Furthermore, they encourage the personal development of their employees and provide growth opportunities.

Steve Jobs's leadership embodied some of the best transformative leadership characteristics. He imparted a clear vision to his employees, which implied creating technological innovations. He encouraged creativity, and he coordinated the efforts of designers and engineers to release products such as the iPhone or the personal computer.

Intellectual stimulation:

The leaders encourage followers to pursue the leader’s goals using innovative and stimulating approaches.

Google founded a company called Google X, which would later be named simply X. The company aims to research and create revolutionary technologies. The X company created a highly stimulating context for its employees due to the creative and challenging nature of the projects the employees are working on.

One example of X’s creations is “Project Loon,” which aims to provide internet in areas with challenging geographical circumstances. They achieved this by sending a network of balloons in the sky that would carry small computers in polystyrene boxes powered by solar energy and sending the internet down to the ground.

This project was extremely useful in early 2017 when catastrophic floods hit Peru, affecting hundreds of thousands of people and knocking out the communication network across the country. Using the technology created through “Project Loom,” many people from Peru benefitted from basic internet connectivity, despite the tragic circumstances.

Individualized consideration:

Transformative leaders provide personal guidance and mentor their followers to help them pursue their passions and develop their talents.

Individual consideration can be seen in the relationship between Lerodoardo Da Vinci and his master Andreea del Verrocchio, a renewed painter and sculptor in Florence during the later fifteenth century. He created enduring monuments of bronze, stone, clay, and other materials to honor the city's beauty. He also created paintings such as the “Maddona with seated child” and the “Virgin and Child.”

Verrocchio took da Vinci as his apprentice, teaching him the art of sculpting and refining his painting skills. Leonardo and other disciples who worked with Verrochio developed a desire for experimentation and a spirit of inquiry in the making of art.

He provided da Vinci with opportunities to grow as a painter in the early years of his life. They worked together on paintings such as the “Baptism of Christ.” Those opportunities paved the way for Leonardo to become one of the greatest painters.

Examples and evidence supporting transformative leadership


Brian Chesky, the co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, has continuously aimed to revolutionize the hospitality industry by creating a platform that connects travelers with hosts offering unique accommodations. Chesky's unwavering commitment to user-centric design and creating memorable experiences for guests and hosts alike has been a driving force behind Airbnb's meteoric rise.

Chesky's leadership approach focuses on empathy, communication, and fostering a strong company culture. He has been known to personally stay at Airbnb listings to gain a deeper understanding of the user experience and identify areas of improvement. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chesky displayed his transformative leadership by quickly adapting the company's business model, focusing on local travel, and enhancing cleaning protocols. This agile response to a global crisis not only preserved Airbnb's market position but also earned the trust and loyalty of hosts and guests alike.

Transformative leaders can guide their followers to achieve great results. However, there are certain situations where transactional leaders would do better. For example, transactional leadership can be effectively used to achieve a company’s short-term goals. Employees can be encouraged through rewards and punishments such as a better salary or lack of bonuses to have a good performance.

Empirical evidence

The leadership skills transformative leaders use to reach seemingly impossible goals are supported by research, showing that transformative leadership creates a context that favors innovation and growth as a professional.

Furthermore, a review of 22 studies revealed that transformative leadership is beneficial for the individuals and the organization they are working for. The workers take greater ownership of their work, show higher levels of commitment, and even develop a greater sense of acceptance toward their colleagues.

In addition, a study that investigated the effectiveness of transformative leadership in complex and international settings involving a gas and oil corporation showed that the workers had improved levels of performance and satisfaction with their work.

A search for great leaders

Three animated people climb a staircase while holding hands. The animated person closer to the top also holds a flag in his right hand.

A great leader can lead others toward achieving the impossible

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, “85% of employees or not engaged or actively disengaged at work”. The estimated economic consequences of this “global norm” negatively impacting workers' productivity indicate a $7 trillion loss for companies.

Given such findings, the leadership team of any company would benefit from helping their employees find meaning and purpose in their work.

Transformative leaders can successfully create a context for innovation and ignite the intrinsic motivation of their followers, working alongside them toward achieving common goals. They can nurture their employee’s talents and guide them toward becoming better professionals.

There is a search worldwide for great leaders, significant innovations are needed to solve our world’s problems, and transformative leaders could create those revolutionary solutions.

If you want to learn more about leadership and becoming a great leader, consider checking out our Integral Development and Leadership course or email an advisor.


  1. Aarons, G. A. (2006). Transformational and transactional leadership: Association with attitudes toward evidence-based practice. Psychiatric services, 57(8), 1162-1169.
  2. Homrig, M. A. (2001). Transformational leadership. Retrieved December 5, 2008.
  3. Varol, O. (2020). Think like a rocket scientist. Ebury Publishing.
  4. Xenikou, A. (2017). Transformational leadership, transactional contingent reward, and organizational identification: The mediating effect of perceived innovation and goal culture orientations. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 1754.
  5. Saad Alessa, G. (2021). The dimensions of transformational leadership and its organizational effects in public universities in Saudi Arabia: A systematic review. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 682092.
  6. Gundersen, G., Hellesøy, B. T., & Raeder, S. (2012). Leading international project teams: The effectiveness of transformational leadership in dynamic work environments. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 19(1), 46-57.

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