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What is transformational leadership?

Read this article about transformational leadership
© University of Southern Queensland

Transformational leadership is the ability certain leaders have to inspire, motivate, and mobilise others in order to create change or achieve the seemingly impossible.

The concept of transformational leadership was first developed by a sociologist named James Downton in the early 1970s. Although didn’t really emerge until James Burn’s text Leadership (1978). There are different definitions and theories about transformational leadership, however, this approach to leadership relies on

encouraging and motivating team members to contribute to and participate in molding a successful future for the organisation

Downton’s theory of transformational leadership was that these types of leaders focus on enacting change around them that will not only improve processes but will also make things better for everyone around them.

It is about producing real change and finding solutions to problems by building up team members and giving them the resources necessary to thrive. These types of leaders are often people you’ll hear others call a ‘‘role model’’ or someone they look up to.

Well-known transformational leaders include:

  • Nelson Mandela
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Indra Nooyi

Companies that have thrived on transformation leadership include:

  • Apple
  • IBM
  • Microsoft

Who else would you add to the transformational leaders list? What is it about them that made you think of them? Do the same with the companies and organisations, which of these would you add to the list and why?

© University of Southern Queensland
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