Transformational Leadership: The 4 Key Characteristics of a Transformational Leader

Are you looking to become a transformational leader? If so, read on to find out what the 4 key characteristics of transformational leadership are and the benefits that come with it. Better yet, learn how to develop a transformational leadership style with 7 practical steps.


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In a dynamic, fast-changing world today, it is important for leaders to adapt to styles of leading that work better. Transformational leadership refers to a method of leadership that helps organizations achieve their goals.

Many know what leadership is but may not have heard of transformational leadership. This article will explain what it is, how you can achieve it, as well as provide other useful information.

What is transformational leadership?

Transformational leadership is a style of leadership that emphasizes the need to motivate employees and prioritize their needs. It emphasizes creativity and innovation, as opposed to transactional leadership which is a leadership style that focuses on achieving short-term goals through the use of rewards and punishments.

What are the four key characteristics of a transformational leader?

The four key characteristics of transformational leadership are the ability to stimulate the intellect, an understanding of what needs to change, the ability to inspire and motivate others, and the ability to communicate effectively.

1. The ability to stimulate the intellect

A transformational leader stimulates the intellect by challenging assumptions, taking risks, and soliciting followers' ideas. By doing so, they encourage their followers to think things out on their own and develop creative solutions. This type of leadership leads to better retention of information and helps people challenge their preconceived notions.

2. An understanding of what needs to change

A transformational leader understands that to achieve success, they must be agile and have a clear understanding of the changing dynamics within their organization and industry. Having situational awareness allows them to identify potential issues and adapt their plans accordingly. Transformational leaders also recognize the importance of maximizing the capabilities of their team. By doing so, they can solve problems more effectively and efficiently while still meeting larger goals. Lastly, transformational leaders can prioritize and adapt quickly as needed. This helps them stay focused on what is most important while still being responsive to changes.

3. The ability to inspire and motivate others

Transformational leaders can inspire and motivate their employees by communicating a clear vision and motivation. They tend to have high standards and expectations for their teams and are optimistic about the team's ability to meet goals. They also provide meaning to their colleagues by showing the importance of all duties and responsibilities. By doing this, transformational leaders encourage others to have a strong sense of purpose, so they can invest more effort in their tasks and achieve great things.

4. The ability to communicate effectively

To be transformational, leaders must be excellent communicators. They need to be able to balance short-term vision with long-term goals. Leaders must also be able to build strong coalitions and establish mutual trust. Furthermore, they need high emotional intelligence to communicate effectively and compassionately with others. Transformational leaders are mindful of how they communicate with their colleagues; the frequency and nature of their communication are important.

transformational leader

transformational leader

How can you become a transformational leader?

Becoming a transformational leader requires experience and time, but you can begin by practising these seven steps: understanding what needs to change, being proactive, open-minded, communicative, encouraging, tolerable of intelligent risk, and being an active listener. 

Step 1: Understand what needs to change

To become a transformational leader, it is important to first understand what needs to change. Resistance to change can be difficult for leaders, employees, and others involved. Leaders must have a clear understanding of the reasons for change to make it successful. Leaders need to be able to communicate clearly and convincingly about the reasoning behind changes and decisions. Those changes must be beneficial not only to the organization but also to improve individual employees' experiences. Lastly, focus on developing relationships with employees and adapting your leadership styles as needed.

Step 2: Be proactive

Being proactive means being able to predict what might go wrong and taking steps to avoid it. This can help transformational leaders avoid problems and manage risks. Being responsive is also important, so leaders can make changes as necessary. Evaluating each step taken is crucial to take corrective action if needed.

Being proactive requires understanding how to manage risks and make well-thought-out decisions. It's also helpful to research and gather multiple insights before making any decisions. By being proactive, transformational leaders can turn obstacles into opportunities.

Step 3: Be open-minded

Leaders at Apple are open-minded and willing to listen to feedback and ideas from a range of sources before making decisions. This willingness to listen makes leaders at Apple more effective as they can take into account a variety of perspectives before making decisions. They also commit to the company's vision: Vision is key for leaders, it inspires followers by touting the opportunities technology unlocks in the creative, educational, and medical communities. This commitment to vision allows leaders at Apple to inspire their followers and create a shared sense of purpose. Open-mindedness and the ability to view the world from different perspectives are key to being able to lead effectively.

Step 4: Be communicative

Being communicative is important for transformational leaders to build trust and strong relationships with employees. By being transparent and keeping employees informed, you can create mutual understanding and respect. In turn, this type of communication creates a positive work environment where employees feel valued and motivated. To practise being communicative, try the following tips:

  • Be clear when communicating expectations to employees.

  • Encourage employees to ask questions and voice concerns.

  • Make yourself available to employees.

  • Be open and honest when sharing information.

Step 5: Be encouraging

Leaders who are encouraging can help to create a more positive work environment where employees feel encouraged to be creative. This can help to foster innovation and new ideas. Additionally, by allowing mistakes and encouraging upward and bottom-up feedback, it shows that you are supportive of the team's creativity and development, instead of creating a culture that fears mistakes and shuns new ideas. Lastly, by encouraging your team to come up with ideas ahead of time, you can help them generate valuable conversation and ideas, rather than rushing into new conversations or topics which may not be as productive.

Step 6: Be tolerant of intelligent risk

A large part of leadership is making decisions. Some decisions are easy, but others are more difficult and require more thought. When it comes to making decisions, leaders need to be able to take risks.

There are two types of risks that leaders can take: regular risks and intelligent risks. Regular risks are those that are taken without much thought or planning. These types of risks can often lead to negative consequences. Intelligent risks, on the other hand, are well-thought-out and planned. These types of risks often lead to positive outcomes.

When taking an intelligent risk, leaders consider all potential outcomes before making a decision. They weigh the pros and cons of each option and make a decision based on what they believe will lead to the best result. Leaders also have a plan in place in case things don't go as expected. This way, they can quickly adapt and make changes as needed. Regular risk-taking, on the other hand, is often impulsive and done without much thought or planning. This can often lead to negative consequences because there wasn't a plan in place if things went wrong.

Step 7: Be an active listener

Active listening has a wide range of benefits for leaders. By listening attentively, you can better understand your team, avoid misunderstandings, and encourage employee engagement and commitment. Active listening is also an important skill, as it allows leaders to understand what employees are saying and how they are feeling.

Leaders refine their active listening skills to avoid misunderstandings. When people feel like their concerns, feelings, and ideas are being genuinely heard and taken into consideration, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. When you listen actively, you'll be able to better communicate with your employees and get more out of conversations,

active listener


What are the benefits of transformational leadership?

Transformational leadership has numerous benefits for both employers and employees. For employers, transformational leadership can lead to increased staff satisfaction and safety performance. Additionally, a transformational leader can help motivate employees and influence the structure of an organization. For employees, working for a transformational leader can mean that they feel their work is valuable and important. This usually results in greater commitment to the organization.

  • Leadership leads to increased staff satisfaction: Managers using transformational leadership principles achieve higher levels of staff satisfaction, which may lead to reduced rates of patient care errors.

  • Employees feel their work is valuable: Employees are more likely to stay with a company when working for a transformational leader, as they feel their work is valued and important.

  • A transformational leader can influence the structure of an organization: This type of leader can motivate current employees and help lead the way towards achieving organizational aspirations.

What are the risks of transformational leadership?

Transformational leadership can be very disruptive and may not always be well received by an organization's members. A transformational leader needs to have a team in place that is willing to support them with research and strategy. Additionally, transformational leaders need to be proactive and able to adapt their plans in light of new information. They also need to handle difficult decisions confidently and be able to react appropriately when things don't go as planned.

What are the different leadership styles?

There are many different types of leadership, and each one can be successful in a certain situation. Leaders should combine different approaches to achieve the best results for their organization. Transactional leadership is based on exchanges between leaders and employees, while transformative leadership is based on transforming an organization from the inside out.

The six different leadership styles are autocratic, delegation, visionary, participative, consultative, and transformational. Each style has its strengths and weaknesses. Leaders need to know how to use each style effectively to lead a team to success.

  1. Autocratic leaders make all the decisions themselves and do not involve others in the decision-making process. This style can be effective when quick decisions need to be made and there is no time for discussion. However, this style can also lead to employees feeling disengaged and uninvolved in the work they are doing.

  2. Delegative leaders give employees a lot of freedom to make decisions and do not offer much guidance or direction. This style can be effective when employees are highly skilled and motivated and do not need much supervision. However, this style can also lead to confusion and chaos if employees are not clear on what their objectives are.

  3. Visionary leaders have a clear vision for the future and can inspire and motivate others to work towards that vision. This style can be effective when employees are looking for direction and need to be inspired to achieve high levels of performance. However, this style can also lead to frustration if the vision is not achievable or if employees do not buy into the vision.

  4. Participative leaders involve employees in the decision-making process and value their input. This style can be effective when employees are experts in their field and need to be consulted to make the best decisions. However, this style can also lead to decision-making being slow and difficult if there are many different opinions involved.

  5. Consultative leaders seek out expert advice from outside sources before making decisions. This style can be effective when complex decisions need to be made and it is important to get a variety of opinions before moving forward. However, this style can also lead to delays in decision-making if the leader is too reliant on others for guidance.

  6. Transformational leaders work to transform an organization from the inside out, focusing on changing employees’ attitudes and beliefs about their work. This style can be effective when an organization needs major change, but it can also lead to conflict if employees resist the change.

Become a transformational leader with Coaching Go Where today.

At Coaching Go Where we pride ourselves on our world-class leadership transformation coaching and training. No matter who you are or which industry you belong to, we are committed to your success. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you in your leadership development journey!