How to Apply Transformational Leadership at Your Company

Transformational leadership is only one style of management, but it has the potential to empower your workforce to do more than you thought possible.

Wed, June 19, 2013

CIO — To be a leader and manager you need to have a solid understanding of things such as project management, organizational skills, managing employees and monitoring their performance, but even masters of these skills aren't necessarily transformational leaders. These skills are simply the foundation on which a transformational leader is most effective.

Some people are just born with leaderships skills and the rest of us have to work at it. You've seen them before--the charismatic leaders who have a way of motivating the people around them. They instill a feeling that we are all accountable and that if one of us fails, we all fail.

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These leaders are on a mission to effect positive change for both the organization and the people they work with, and their energy and passion help fuel cohesion among peers and team members, allowing them to larger than the sum of their parts. They challenge long-held assumptions and don't accept answers like, "because this is the way we've always done it."

What Is Transformational Leadership?

Transformational problems are the critical issues a company or organization faces. Most times they relate to attitudes, behaviors and culture. They are rooted in the core and can be difficult to pinpoint without deep analysis.

"Woodrow Wilson called for leaders who, by boldly interpreting the nation's conscience, could lift a people out of their everyday selves. That people can be lifted into their better selves is the secret of transforming leadership," - James MacGregor Burns.

James MacGregor Burns is credited with creating the concept of transformational leadership in 1978. He was a presidential biographer and a leadership expert who focused mainly on the improvement of management principles and procedures.

Burns said that a transformational leader needs to have a solid understanding of the necessary goals to be successful and be articulate in explaining those goals and the method to which they are to be achieved.

"Change doesn't really happen at a company; it happens with people, so in order to lead change you have to know how to lead people," says Pamela Rucker, chairwoman of the CIO Executive Council's Executive Women in IT.

Transformational leaders are described as charismatic, enthusiastic, optimistic, passionate and sometimes visionary, giving them the ability to change long-held perceptions and beliefs. Those traits can spread like a wildfire; when they do, leaders and workers can engage more effectively allowing real transformation to take place.

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