LeadershipOctober 18, 2022

What is Transformative Leadership?


This post will explore the definition of transformative leadership, how it differs from other leadership styles, and its potential benefits for individuals and organizations. By the end of this post you will have a better understanding of what transformative leadership can do for your unique leadership situation.

Servant Leaders

Transformative leadership is also called servant leadership. A leader who serves is a leader who is a servant of the people rather than master over them; they actively and willingly contribute to developing their team.

This type of leadership is to act with humility, inspire others to reach their full potential, and take an interest in the personal and professional development of others.Transformational leaders are typically charismatic individuals, not necessarily due to confidence or eloquence, but as a result of their inspirational and inclusionary words and actions.

Charisma, in this sense, is the result of connecting with others.  People want to be heard and understood; charisma is earned when a leader is genuinely interested in and considers the thoughts and opinions of others.  Leaders with charisma recognize that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  They seek collective growth by recognizing and nurturing the unique contributions of individuals.

Woman with short hair leading a business meeting while others listen to her speak and inspire her team

A transformational leader is a person who inspires others to do their best.

Transformative Leadership is Democratic Leadership

Democratic or participatory leadership encourages widespread inolvement in decisions that affect the group. This is in contrast to an environment which asks that individuals follow orders and keep their head down. When team members know their voice will be heard they are more likely to use it. Transformative leadership puts an emphasis on collective growth which is driven by, and benefits, the organization as a whole.  This recognizes that individuals at every level have valuable skills and perspectives that do not trump those of management.

Is transformational leadership the same as transactional leadership?

Transactional leadership is a style of leadership that focuses on giving employees promotions, raises in pay, and other material rewards for their work. This differs from transformative leadership, which focuses on motivating employees by helping them see the value of their work and giving them opportunities to develop skills.

Transactional leadership fails to offer the benefits of transformative leadership in that it does not focus on changing the status quo or providing genuine enrichment with long-term impact. A work environment wherein employees feel empowered to come up with creative solutions to problems and are invited to take action beyond explicitly provided directions creates opportunities for exponential development. Transactional leaders are more concerned with maintaining control over their team and trusting that they know what is best, while transformational leaders are willing to test new waters and to help their employees grow both personally and professionally.

The Four Key Characteristics of Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is based on four things:

  • Inspirational Motivation. A leader’s ability to communicate with others is one of the most important aspects of leadership; without good communication skills, no leader can expect followership from those he or she leads. Transformational leaders use various forms of encouragement as means for communicating their visions for change within an organization or community; this method creates shared meaning between the leader and followers through excitement about future possibilities and goals within an organization or community.
  • Intellectual Stimulation. This involves the leader stimulating his or her followers' thinking or encouraging them to think differently. The leader may challenge assumptions, teach new ideas and knowledge, introduce new concepts and theories, encourage risk-taking, allow experimentation with different approaches to problems, provide opportunities for training and development, create a sense of excitement about work (or an organization's products), or offer information that people need to make better decisions about their work activities.
  • Idealized Influence. Transformational leaders are role models, handling every situation ethically and with moral conduct. Because of this, their followers trust and respect them. Leadership is based on leading by example as opposed to systems of reward and punishment depending on the follower’s activities.
  • Individualized Consideration. Transformational leaders put an emphasis on every person’s needs and consider the individual talents of the individual. These leaders also encourage open dialogue among group members so that peers can share knowledge. Transformative leaders also demonstrate empathy. This allows employees to feel appreciated, which increases job satisfaction within environments — employees are supported rather than judged due to poor performance metrics.

Inspirational Motivation: Transformational leaders have high emotional intelligence

Transformational leaders have high levels of emotional intelligence. They are able to understand and manage their own emotions, as well as those and can read the emotions of the people they lead. This self-awarenessemotional intelligence allows leadersthem to assess situations effectively and make decisions that benefit everyone involved. Self-aware leaders recognize how feelings can influence their behavior and make conscious efforts to remain positive when giving feedback or delivering bad news.  They know this eases resistance and improves the likelihood of acceptance.

Self-confidence—the courage necessary to make difficult decisions when no one else can see a solution or would expect you to find one—is an important attribute of transformative leaders.  A strong sense of self provides crucial stability within a group.  Displaying confidence in oneself (and in one’s subordinates) puts everyone at ease and supports positive forward movement.

Self-awareness is another characteristic of transformational leaders. Self-aware leaders are able to understand their feelings and emotions and therefore how they influence their behavior. As a result, these types of leaders know that it's important for them to stay positive when giving feedback or delivering bad news because it will be easier for others to accept what they're saying if they seem confident in themselves (and therefore in their subordinates).

Transformational leaders are inspirational. They inspire others to be the best they can be. They have a clear vision and communicate it effectively, so that everyone knows what they are working toward and why it is important. Transformational leaders are also energizing: they motivate individuals to take action, help them find meaning in their work, and encourage them when times get tough.

SA final trait shared by transformative leaders is high self-confidence—the courage necessary tofor makeing difficult decisions when no one else can see a solution or would expect you to find one—is an important attribute for transformative leaders.  A. This strong sense of self provides crucial stability within a group.  Displaying confidence in oneself (and in one’s subordinates) puts everyone at ease and supports positive forward movement..is particularly important for transformative leaders.

Intellectual Stimulation: Transformational leaders think outside the box

Transformational leaders are creative. They are able to think outside the box, come up with new ideas, and change their strategies when needed. They inspire their team to action by sharing their vision and making sure that everyone is on board with what they want to achieve, not out of necessity but as a result of earned buy-in.

Transformational leadership is especially important in times of change or uncertainty. When people are unsure of what to do or where they should go, leaders need to step in and provide direction for others so that everyone can get back on track together as a team.

Idealized Influence: Transformative leaders act ethically

Transformative leaders act ethically, with integrity, and encourage followers to do the same. They are transparent, trustworthy, and accountable. This means they have a strong moral compass, act with fairness and justice, are honest in both actions and words. Transformative leaders do not take advantage of people or situations for their own gain or benefit at others’ expense—and they do not support anyone else doing so.

Transformative leaders act ethically, with integrity, and encourage followers to do the same. They are transparent, trustworthy, and accountable.

Transformational leaders have high standards for behavior; they expect the best from themselves as well as others around them—which means if you work for one you should expect high standards from yourself, too!

Individualized Consideration: Transformative leadership is about inspiring a team

Transformative leadership is about inspiring a team toward a common goal. Leaders inspire others to act, and they create a shared vision of what success looks like. They show people that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Transformative leaders empower their teams by trusting them with influence, resources, and information—and thus build the trust of their followers in return.

Transformative leadership requires more than just setting goals or delegating tasks—it requires changing attitudes and behaviors within an organization that may have been there for years (or even decades).


Transformative leadership is a powerful tool that can be used to inspire and motivate employees in any organization or group setting. This type of leadership helps companies achieve their long-term goals while investing in their employees’s growth. Transformational leaders are able to get others on board with their vision by showing them how concepts will benefit them as well as the organization as a whole.

Meridian University offers degrees in education, business, and psychology that focus on transformative leadership. If you want to learn more about this kind of leadership and see what it can do for you, request information from one of our professional advisors here.

People Also Ask

What is an example of transformative leadership?

Here, we have provided three real-world examples of transformative leadership:

  1. Martin Luther King Jr.'s leadership in the Civil Rights Movement.  He motivated people to change the world through peaceful protest and civil disobedience.

  2. Nelson Mandela's leadership in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. He showed that reconciliation and forgiveness are powerful weapons against oppression.

  3. Steve Jobs' leadership at Apple. He turned a computer company into one of the most innovative and successful businesses in the world.

What are the 4 types of transformational leadership?

The four types of transformational leadership are idealized influence, inspirational motivation, individualized consideration, and intellectual stimulation.

  • Idealized Influence: the ability to evoke admiration and respect in followers
  • Inspirational Motivation: the ability to generate a sense of excitement and enthusiasm in followers
  • Individualized Consideration: the ability to show concern for and attend to the unique needs of followers
  • Intellectual Stimulation: the ability to challenge followers with new ideas and perspectives

What is the main focus of transformational leadership?

The main focus of transformational leadership is to inspire individuals to achieve more than they thought possible and to help them achieve their full potential.

Transformational leaders are able to tap into people's emotions and inspire them to take action. They are also excellent at creating a vision for the future that is inspiring and motivating, and they can help individuals see how they can play a role in achieving that vision. Transformational leaders help individuals become more than they are currently and enable them to reach their full potential.

Learn More

Interested in learning more about the programs at Meridian?

Contact An Advisor »Attend an Info Session »
learn more about meridian xllearn more about meridian lglearn more about meridian mdlearn more about meridian sm