What are Transformational Leadership Characteristics?

Transformational 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.

Transformational Leadership Characteristics

Transformational leaders inspire others through their vision and work alongside their followers toward achieving shared goals. They break the rules and generally don’t adhere to the standard conventions of any given domain, creating innovative solutions to the world’s problems.

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.

The power of transformational 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.

What is transformational leadership?

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

A transformational leader imparts an inspiring vision of the future


The transformational 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.¹

The characteristics of transformational leaders

Transformational 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.

Transformational 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, transformational leaders know their followers' strengths and weaknesses and organize their efforts to maximize efficiency.

There are four fundamental transformational leadership characteristics that make it an effective type of leadership:²

Idealized influence:

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

Richard Branson, a transformational 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

Transformational 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 transformational 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.³

Individualized consideration:

Transformational 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 fifteen 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 that 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 transformational 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 transformational 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.

Another example of transformational leadership is Company X,  founded by Google to create revolutionary technologies, such as “ Project Loon.” The company’s employees feel encouraged to be as creative as possible, break the rules, and devise solutions to world problems. Failure there is considered a normal part of the process, and employees are rewarded if they stop a project that shows signs that it won’t work.

Transformational 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 transformational leadership creates a context that favors innovation and growth as a professional.⁴

Furthermore, a review of 22 studies revealed that transformational 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.⁵

In addition, a study that investigated the effectiveness of transformational 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.⁶

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.

Transformational 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.

People also ask:

What is the main focus of transformational leadership?

The transformational leadership style is based on inspiring and encouraging others, and it is linked with a high level of coordination, collaboration, and communication. It functions well in close supervisory relationships and, by emphasizing the significance and worth of the leader's objectives, raises the followers' intrinsic motivation.

The four main characteristics of transformational leadership are the following:

  • Idealized influence: Building a relationship founded on trust with their followers and presenting high moral and ethical standards.
  • Inspirational motivation: Helping their followers find meaning and purpose in their work by providing them with a clear and exciting vision for the future.
  • Intellectual stimulation: Granting followers the flexibility to pursue the leader's goals through innovative approaches that foster their development.
  • Individual consideration: Offering personalized mentoring and coaching to their followers to help them nurture their talents and passion.

Transformational leaders can be people like Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson. They were relentless hard workers who inspired others to help them create innovative technologies that were hardly imaginable before them.

What are the four characteristics of transformational leadership?

The four characteristics of transformational leadership are the following:

  • Idealized influence: Building a connection based on trust with their supporters and upholding high moral and ethical standards.
  • Inspirational motivation: Providing their followers with a clear vision for the future and assisting them in discovering meaning and purpose in their work.
  • Intellectual stimulation: Granting followers the freedom to pursue the leader’s objectives through original and creative approaches that support the follower’s growth.
  • Individual consideration: Nurturing the talents of the leader’s followers by providing them with personalized coaching and mentoring.

One example that could show the effectiveness of these leadership characteristics is “Project Loon,” created by X, a company founded by Google. This project is highly creative, and it is the result of X’s employees' innovative ideas.

The goal of Project Loon is to bring internet access to remote locations. They achieved this by launching a network of balloons into the air, each carrying a series of tiny solar-powered computers housed in polystyrene boxes and transmitting the internet to the ground. The technology was used in early 2017 when catastrophic floods hit Peru, affecting a large number of people. Project Loon helped tens of thousands of Peruvians gain basic internet connectivity despite the tragic circumstances.

What are the eight attributes of a transformational leader?

The eight attributes of a transformational leader are the following:

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

Transformational leaders have grand visions of the future and manage to motivate others to follow them in making the vision a reality. They create systems with flexible rules and provide constructive feedback and encouragement to their followers.

A great example of an individual who embodies most of the characteristics of a transformational 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.

What are the characteristics of transformational?

Transformational leaders are inspirational and highly ambitious. They provide their followers with a clear and exciting vision for the future and encourage them to be innovative. They are also very receptive to suggestions from their team regarding critical decisions. As a result, followers feel heard and are eager to collaborate with the leader toward a common goal.

Transformational leadership can be highly effective for achieving long-term projects. Leaders can guide their followers to find meaning and purpose in their work by providing them with a clear and exciting vision for the future.

An example where transformational leadership can be seen as essential is in the development of the company Apple. Steve Jobs is an iconic entrepreneur who revolutionized our relationship with technology and brought to the general public innovations such as personal computers, iPhones, and others. He envisioned creating valuable products people love, encouraged his employees to be creative, and was actively engaged in designing Apple’s gadgets.

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