Transformational Leadership

Transformational vs. Contemporary Leadership Styles

Servant leadership, transactional leadership, and emotional leadership seem similar to transformational leadership. However, there are also some notable differences between these styles.

Servant Leadership

A servant leader shifts focus from his or her own interests to the people he or she serves.
The focus of servant leadership is not on the result, but on the means of achieving the result – primarily through expression and handling of other people’s needs. This assistance should be in the form of providing guidance in individual roles, empowering followers, and developing a culture of trust toward meeting organizational goals.

The concept of servant leadership, though popular and effective, has suffered tremendously because it has remained largely undefined. Some scholars have recently taken an interest in servant leadership and have attempted to make the theory more applicable at the organizational level. A side-by-side comparison between the transformational and servant leadership reveals relatively similar attributes; both styles of leadership are people-oriented.

Most notably, both types of leadership involve elements of integrity, trust, respect, delegation, vision, and influence on followers. Both leadership styles emphasize the appreciation, mentoring, recognition, and listening skills of the leader as empowerment tools for the followers.

However, there are certain points of departure between the two styles. While it emphasizes gaining trust and influencing followers, servant leadership calls for more sacrifice on the part of the leader. The pursuit of profits is secondary for the servant leader. Followers are more likely to have greater freedom under a servant leader than transformational leader.

Another principal difference is the leader’s focus. Though both styles call the leader to service, the servant leader’s ultimate focus is the follower, while the transformational leader’s greatest concern is to encourage followers to serve the organization diligently. The fundamental difference between the two styles is that the servant leader focuses on the followers’ needs, while the transformational leader focuses on organizational goals.

The servant leader’s followers achieve organizational objectives because they become the leader’s first priority. This is different from transformational leadership, where interests of the organization are the ultimate priority.

Charisma is a key ingredient for transformational leadership. Charisma refers to charm and power to inspire, motivate, and excite others. While transformational leadership relies on the leader’s charismatic power to achieve effectiveness, servant leaders create the same motivation and influence through the act of service, without grandstanding on the leader’s part.

While both styles of leadership are effective, there are risks attached to each. Both may fall prey to manipulation and corruption, since, with these kinds of leadership, the leader eventually garners some authority or power over the followers, which can be used for negative purposes.Some followers are too reliant on their leaders and establish strong links with them to satisfy their pressing dependency needs.

While both transformational and servant leadership may have negative applications, their benefits far outweigh these negatives.

Transactional Leadership vs. Transformational Leadership

Another historical leadership style is transactional leadership, in which a leader offers some valuable thing in exchange for the follower’s services. Most traditional relationships between leaders and followers are transactional, since most people believe “quid pro quo” (“something for something”) to be the ultimate purpose of negotiation. In such an arrangement, everyone is happy and thus there is no harm done.
The contract between employer and employee is mostly transactional.

Transformational and transactional leadership are different, but can complement each other occasionally, depending on circumstances. The combination of transactional and transformational leadership is best. Though it may be easy to augment transactional relationships, it is not possible to replace it with transformational leadership, since transactional leadership is also an effective motivation technique.

A transformational leader who fails to charm his or her followers will often resort to transactional leadership. Transactional leadership is a shortcut and is not as long-lasting as transformational leadership, because the reward promised may not always be available, but the charisma of the leader will never be depleted.
Transformational leadership transcends the transactional style. Motivation from within the follower produces powerful results.

Another trait of transactional leadership is “management by exception.” The active form of this type of management involves assessing employee performance and taking corrective measures where needed. In the passive form, the leader only intervenes where things have gotten out of hand. The last of the transactional traits is the laissez faire leadership, in which the leader allows employees to do as they like.

Emotional Leadership

Emotional leadership is loosely related to transformational leadership. Here, leadership involves tapping the leader’s emotional center to lead, where decisions are based on the feelings of the leader at the time. Some may assert that transformational leadership also involves a level of emotional influence. However, the two types of leadership are structurally different, because transformational leadership is, in essence, a rational process.


Transformational leadership is a theory of leadership that was developed by James Burns (1978), and has been written about by many other scholars since then. To read more of James Burns’ work on transformational leadership and other topics, click here to visit his page.

Influence of Transformational Leadership on Behavior and Performance

Transformational leadership is a widespread, influential style of leadership that creates a high level of effectiveness in most organizations. This success can credited to certain leader behaviors that influence logic and motivation in their followers. Transformational leaders tap into the values, beliefs, and ideals of followers toward a higher vision. This is the most crucial part of leadership in fostering effectiveness.

Their inspiration helps followers discover new means of problem-solving. Much research has been carried out on followers’ reactions toward transformational leadership. It is common to find such tenets as trust, personal confidence, job satisfaction, identification, a feeling of belonging, and fairness being emphasized as indicators of the success of a transformational leader.

Another approach to transformational leadership has been the examination of followers’ feelings about themselves, based on input to their assigned jobs or groups. It makes sense to gauge the success of leadership by its effects on the behavior of targeted followers. In the school setting, it is crucial that students, parents, staff, and other interested groups feel that their leadership values their input, and that they are responsible for the success of the school in their individual capacities.

Perhaps the most important mechanism for gauging the benefits of transformational leadership is a critical examination of individual performance, rather than finding out their feelings toward leadership. In contrast to other styles, the rationale for transformational leadership is results-based.

A transformational leader should be able to bring out these characteristics in their followers:

• Identity: followers should be able to complete whole tasks while still adding value to them.
• Variety: a transformational leader should evoke an array of results by encouraging the use of different skills by followers.
• Autonomy: the leader allows for personal growth and freedom at work.
• Feedback: the tools of analysis by which the leader assesses the performance of the entire establishment, and helps to decide what needs to be corrected.

In a school, it is important that all students and staff, being the direct followers of school leadership, acquire these characteristics from the transformational leader.Though these characteristics may involve the feelings of followers, their intended purpose is to bring about a higher level of cooperative performance. Using the above characteristics, researchers are able to analyze the influence of transformational leadership on performance and behavior. The integration of all these aspects brings out the total synergy created by transformational leadership and a motivated following.

Transformational leaders enable followers to see organizational goals as being similar to their own goals and interests. this introduces a higher level of responsibility in followers, resulting in better performance. The use of intellectual stimulation through new styles of problem solving and a higher tolerance for individual freedom instills autonomy and variety, which are often characteristics of good performance. Through inspirational motivation and charismatic influence, followers are more likely to feel that their roles in the organizational setting are significant.

In a school setting, commitment to the school motto by students and staff can have a direct influence to their overall performance, be it academically or in extra-curricular activities. For example, if a school’s motto states “excellence through discipline,” anyone who takes this line to heart would try to succeed while maintaining a disciplined order. The link between commitment to the motto and success is obvious.

At Excellence Elementary School in Smalltown, USA, the students and staff recite an affirmation every morning at breakfast. “I am Somebody. I am capable and lovable . . . I can do anything when I try,” they chant. This emphasis on individual accountability and performance has had a dramatic effect on the school, which had been struggling.

The affirmation served as a foundation stone for the changes the school was starting to implement under new leadership. Teachers based art, music, and writing assignments on the new affirmation. Suddenly, children and teachers alike felt responsible for their actions, and were assured of their important role in the school. This is transformational leadership at its best: the leader sets off a process that allows staff and students to take ownership of the school.


Transformational leadership is a theory of leadership that was developed by James Burns (1978), and has been written about by many other scholars since then. To read more of James Burns’ work on transformational leadership and other topics, click here to visit his page.

The 4 Attributes of Transformational Leadership

Leadership – it’s not just giving orders. The role of school administration is about more than just making schedules and disciplining children. Transformational leadership offers administrators the opportunity to drive organizational change and to create strong schools by fostering a culture of learning and growth in educators that then gives children an environment in which to grow.

It’s not difficult to see how Transformational Leadership would fit well into the school setting, as its attributes line up perfectly with the goals of education. In fact, when transformational leadership is applied to school setting the results are quite remarkable. So what are the attributes of transformational leadership, and how can administrators go about implementing them?

1.    Idealized/Charismatic influence

A leader must be able to inspire the people who they are leading. How? Through language, etiquette, mannerisms and lifestyle. Those being led must have great amount of trust in their leader in order to allow themselves to be guided. Living by example is essential, because just as this model demands that educators look beyond self interest, by extension the leader must look beyond their own self interest as well. High levels of integrity and moral values are absolutely essential.

In order for leadership to be transformational, a charismatic leader has to spread out responsibility and to take it on without compromising. That means that their followers must follow because they are committed to the cause and confident in their leader’s ability to get things done. Charisma isn’t some ethereal quality that’s limited to politicians and movie stars – in the real world it is derived from respect and a visible projection of responsibility. The other point here is that followers will follow other followers. If a leader is able to distribute tasks and have those tasks completed effectively by subordinates, then others will latch onto that and naturally follow. In effect a leader can grow their charisma by utilizing their resources effectively.

2.    Inspirational Motivation

The top goal of a transformational leader is to get the full support of everyone involved, all with an eye for the common goal. The best way to do this is to be open and honest about challenges. When people feel that their leader is willing to face known issues rather than brushing them aside, they become invested. The aim is to develop that sense of belonging within the school culture, which then supports everyone involved.

Transformational Leadership takes the compartments out of the school. Rather than teachers being focused only on what’s going on in their classrooms, their vision becomes expanded to see how their relationships with others in the school affects the outcomes of students. There is an investment in the success of other teachers, who are all working toward the same goal of brightening young minds. The core of transformational leadership is employee commitment, which then creates opportunities for the goals of the entire school environment to be achieved.

  1. Intellectual Stimulation

Education is at it’s core about getting those neurons to fire. Leaders who encourage their employees to stay rational in the face of emotional challenges that come with the educational setting are creating an environment that will have less conflict and more growth. Innovation and hard work are encouraged through intellectual pursuits like problems solving. Just as keeping students intellectually engaged in the classroom keeps them on track, so too does keeping teachers intellectually engaged keep them on track.

It’s so important that there is an understanding that education is about growth. Any good teacher will tell you that teachers learn as much from their students as their students learn from them. There is an organic understanding among educators that teaching and learning are partners. Educators cannot help their children to grow if they are not growing themselves, and in fact educators want to grow. Educational leaders should use this desire for growth to keep their followers actively engaged.

  1. Individualized Consideration

Creating relationships is essential, and that means two-way communication. Followers who feel heard and valued are much more invested in the process and interested in pursuing the larger, organizational goals. Not to mention this individualized process allows leaders to then know the strengths of the people within the organization, so as to better structure the group for success. In a school setting, this translates to interactions beyond the mandatory observations and meetings. Administrators who seek connection with their staff in smaller, more regular ways are able to build trust and a sense of shared service that leads to a better and more productive relationship overall.

Best practice for a transformational leader is to have opportunities to work with individuals on a one-on-one basis in at least some form. While in large settings this might be more of a challenge, nonetheless it is the individualized communication that creates the right environment for transformational leadership. There are myriad ways to make this happen, without having to pile on undue stress or time commitments. Transformational leaders employ creative means to create those relationships.


Transformational leadership is a theory of leadership that was developed by James Burns (1978), and has been written about by many other scholars since then. To read more of James Burns’ work on transformational leadership and other topics, click here to visit his page.

Becoming a Transformational School Leader

Though community-building takes time, its impact is long-lasting. In order to implement change in a school environment, creating a common vision is paramount. The biggest challenge for school leadership is handling different kinds of people, with various goals and interests. A school leader has to ensure that students are following curricula, excelling academically, and becoming outstanding members of society. In comparison, teachers’ are focused on meeting curricula deadlines and ensuring that students keep up with class work. The leader must confront student deviance , as well as teachers’ possible cynicism and lack of motivation.

A transformational school leader ensures students focus on their studies by being considerate of individuality, being charismatic in influencing them, and inspiring them. Instead of using set problem-solving techniques, he or she involves students and teachers to come up with solutions to problems as they arise. Transformational leaders in a school setting quickly identify areas in need of improvement, seeking out-of-the-box solutions. The leader identifies cynicism and intentions to quit among teachers, through consultation and individualized consideration. Realigning their values and goals to resonate with those of the school, the leader reassures teachers that they are needed and valued.

Emphasis in a transformational school shifts from “leadership” to “professionalism.” Direct leadership and professionalism do not mix. Studies show that professionalism cannot develop when stifled by command and instruction based leadership. Professionalism is more about competence than skill. It involves a higher degree of trust, and ensures a teacher’s commitment to caring, excellence, and to professionalism as a given.

T. J. Sergiovanni, proposed five alternative approaches to full transformational leadership in schools. These are:

• Technical leadership: sound management of school resources
• Human leadership: networking; establishing social and interpersonal bonds
• Educational leadership: expert knowledge on educational matters
• Symbolic leadership: role-modeling and behavior
• Cultural leadership: regarding the values, beliefs, and cultural identity of the school

The first three approaches—the technical, human, and educational aspects of leadership—are the primary influences on a school’s effectiveness. The symbolic and cultural aspects add the most value and are responsible for the overall excellence of the school. The traditional concept of direct leadership places an enormous burden on a school leader to run almost every aspect of leadership. Substituting a community-based approach, coupled with professionalism and cooperation, can produce speedy results. Transformational leadership can change the mindset of staff and students. Emphasis is placed on the school community, not just the leader’s interests.

Transformational leadership also brings about professionalism in the teaching staff by allowing them the autonomy and room to improve. Because a leader allows followers to meet and overcome challenges on their own, teachers are more involved in school affairs. Cooperative relationships are most likely to develop when challenges are surmounted together, without supervision from the leader.

Clearly, transformational leadership improves job performance through the four pillars of charismatic/idealized influence, individual consideration, inspirational motivation and intellectual stimulation. Studies have now shown that it also positively affects the psychological well-being of employees.

Transformational leadership helps in individual goal-setting and goal commitment, by transferring responsibility- making the individual feel part of a whole. In a shift of focus, the leader no longer offers rewards, but empowers followers to become leaders through mutual responsibility and trust. This inspires staff performance beyond leader expectations. Transformational leaders help their followers maximize performance, by finding and emphasizing common ground.

Research studies suggest that highly effective leadership styles positively influence student performance. Transformational leadership can bring about a wide range of results at a personal level (i.e., followers’ empowerment and identity) and at the group or organizational level (cohesiveness and collective power to make changes). It produces these positive effects primarily by shaping the followers’ self-worth and promoting identification with their leader.

What distinguishes a transformational leader is the combination of head and heart, and the ability to understand and apply emotions effectively to connect with and influence followers. Transformational leadership results in wide-ranging changes wherever it is introduced and is effective in solving problems in the school environment. It would be prudent for school leaders in the U.S. to utilize it in their school communities.