Do you feel something is missing in your managerial style?

Do you find some peer managers doing well with new generation reportees and not you? What is different in them?


Even when you deliver results to the company, you seem to be not a loved manager. Are you looking to morph yourself into a well-liked manager?

If you are a manager and above questions have ever come across your mind, then at the least you should get some idea about Transformational Leadership Theory. This style of leadership, though not new, has seen a surge in adoption recently because of business model change and some unique characteristics of the current generation of employees. With ever changing technologies in the market today, it is important we adopt some leadership technique that does not need complete changing from scratch to be adoptable.

Why are we discussing this?

In the sequence of industrialization that fueled the urbanization, the early batch of people joined companies or rather factories, merely to earn a living. They were, to an extent, exploited for maximizing profits. To have a stable job, they often stuck to the same company for their lifetime.

The management style then was crude and mostly oriented to derive maximum work from a person by hook or crook to ensure maximum profitability. There was almost no scope left for creativity and innovation. That is why to safeguard the interests of the workers, trade unions cropped up and they portrayed many managers as villains.

The image has stuck ever since for portraying a hard manager. While there was no need for the employees to be innovative or creative, the same applied for the managers. Their main focus was on cutting costs, increasing sales and maximizing profits alone. Innovation, continuous learning, creativity and other productive traits took a backseat.

The next generation joined organisations to earn a better livelihood and slowly began exploring different options for a more comfortable lifestyle. They did not have the same circumstances as their predecessors to stick to a single job for a lifetime. They did break out of an organization if another lucrative offer was made to them.

People began to move out of their comfort zone once in a while for a more materially comfortable life. The companies slowly began to understand the value of the employees and began some benefits to engage employees to some extent. In this era, the management was flexible but kept many obsolete elements from the older management style.

There were examples of some better management styles too, but were not adopted in the mainstream. There were many examples of cross-over management styles, of which some were successful and some not so successful.

Then came the millennials and current generation of employees. They give little importance to compensatory satisfaction alone. They want to be part of some higher purpose than themselves and bring in their creativity to their workplace. This requires their workplace to be diverse enough to challenge them, engage them and make them feel wanted. This workforce is hungry for recognition of their contribution and wants to be part of some organisation of which they can proudly mention to their peers. Such companies, to be successful, need a set of unique managers altogether. Such managers should be able to inspire, lead and set examples for them to follow. Not only follow, some of them even like to highlight the fact that they had worked under a successful manager. Such managers have rigorously followed Transformational Leadership Theory to enhance their leadership skills.

In this global age where entrepreneurship is rampant, founders almost automatically follow Transformational Leadership. This is because the business vision and the investment (both in terms of capital and time) are their very own. They do not want to boss around to get work done. They attempt to rub their conviction of their vision against as many talented people as possible to have an extra chance at success percentage. They do not shy off from working with the employees as the vision is not imposed by anyone else but have been born out to the entrepreneur. 

So, What is Transformational Leadership?

Transformational Leadership targets to bring out the best in the people you work with. In such leadership you share the company’s vision to the team and become an enabler to help them achieve that vision while working on their strengths. When you practise Transformational Leadership Theory, you not only support your team in their innovations and creativity but also provide examples by getting your hands dirty in the actual work. On the way, even if you did not want, you obtain a trickle of followers. The engagement here is not a one timer, but you continuously outperform your last achievement frequently to stay the role model of your followers.

Instead of being a taskmaster, you work alongside your team while taking feedback actively to make their workplace more conducive to productivity and excellence. You constantly upskill yourself and stay ready to help the team deal with any challenge that they have not yet encountered. Since your team looks up to you for inspiration, it is vital for you to maintain a high ethical and logical standard. 

Even when there is no significant workload on the team, you show them a vision where the organization could be successful in the future so that they can acquire related skills and be ready for the future and stay hopeful instead of looking for the immediate next opportunity. They stick to current organizations because of a mentor like you and not always because of the lucrative perks the company provides.

You give a personal touch to the team dealings while keeping communication channels open both ways. This brings in vital information that could hinder a team’s performance early into your notice so you can work on its mitigation. This not only helps you have a ground reality check with the team but frees you up from following up status with intermediate leaders to set course for your project.

Origin and Evolution

James V. Downton originally conceptualized and introduced the concept of Transformational Leadership Theory. This concept was further developed by James MacGregor Burns- a presidential biographer. This was even furthered by Bernard M. Bass. As per him, to gauge the transformational degree in a manager, we need to see how much influence he can exert on his followers. The more the influence, higher is the chance of the person practising Transformational Leadership Theory.

The concept is divided into 4 components which are also sometimes referred to as the 4 I’s.

1. Idealized Influence

Here you will need to be the ideal for your team to look up to. Get your hands dirty and prove your competence before expecting your team to undertake the task till completion. The term ‘Lead by Example’ takes a whole new meaning here. You will need to do it all yourself first before you want your team to take up such tasks. You will need to demonstrate, a particular task can be done irrespective of the challenges. It becomes even more important for you to attempt something that has never been done before, so that it becomes the new normal for your team to comfortably make an attempt. If they falter, anyways you are there to guide them.

2. Inspirational Motivation

While chalking out the goals for individuals in your team, build their vision in a way that highlights the criticality of their contribution towards the larger organizational vision. It is important to not only just build their vision verbally but also inspire them by your action towards that vision. Show your commitment to that vision by going beyond expectations and thus passively inspire your team. It is also important you portray the vision and communicate about it in simple, easy to understand terms so that your team can relate to it easily. This component forms a building block of your Charisma, which essentially differentiates you from your peers.

3. Individualized Consideration

This component deals with taking care of your team individuals at a personal level to grow them into an effective contributor. You must know your team individually, often connecting with them at a personal level to excel in this component. With your personal attention, they gain confidence and trust the organization more. With this renewed confidence they grow faster and are more eager to contribute to the common cause. As part of taking care at a personal level, you can identify training that can bring the team member that is lagging, to the speed of the team. Once the improvement areas are identified, it becomes easy for the manager to decide effectively on a strategy for the entire team to follow. 

4. Intellectual Stimulation

It is important as a transformational manager; you tease the imagination of your team members and provide them with a necessary environment for them to explore their potentials. While you protect them from unnecessary distractions, you also share the target pressure with them to strategize effectively to work towards resolution. While doing so, entrust them with responsibilities without micromanaging but providing them with all the resources they need for working through the challenge. They should be able to solve things on their own without much interference from you, while you still keep a sideline view of things to jump in, if someone needs help. 

Now that we know what is Transformational Leadership Theory, we need to understand what could come in its way so you can avoid them to stay on course to be a great Transformational leader.

A study from International Journal of Leadership Studies suggests that, mainly the individual traits of a leader affects the way they lead their teams. Especially the Five-factor model of personality:

Five-Factor Model of Personality

Factor 1: Openness to experience

This trait deals with the person’s capability to open up to novel experiences and not constrict to a specific set of preferred events around him. The more a person is open, more is the person’s mind in terms of creativity and general awareness of one’s feelings compared to a closed person. People who are not much bound by their comfort zone get to learn new things which adds to their experiences and make them more wise. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but at least staying open in the professional world to new experiences opens up many doors and thought processes for a person.

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Factor 2: Conscientiousness

This trait is the person’s cognizance of the situation and resulting resolve to reach the goal by knowing what could distract him from the goal and successfully avoiding it. Conscientiousness supports one’s endeavour to reach greater heights by practicing self discipline and the much needed dedication. The more a person is conscientious, the more is the chance of him/her applying Transformational Leadership Theory effectively and be successful.

Factor 3. Extraversion/Introversion

This is the way a person functions, by drawing energy from external sources while being mostly staying engaged in the activities, by being the face of the discussion/party or the centre of social engagement. They are more dominating in social engagement settings and handle such arrangements well. We know them as Extroverts.

Or a person could keep to himself, not engage socially as much as extroverts and still be able to contribute to the cause. This is because of their inherently independent low stimulant based energy system. Their non-dependency on external stimulus helps them to stay focused even with low social engagements.

Whatever may be the person’s orientation, they should not make this a hurdle in practicing Transformational Leadership Theory and become leaders.

Factor 4. Agreeableness

This trait is the tendency to see a particular situation from another person’s point of view and be able to relate to it. Sometimes even while slightly disagreeing because of personal values, such people agree with decisions that result in social harmony. Agreeable people are sought for their level mindedness which also earns them the trust of other people and are generally seen as helpful people. They are seen as more approachable than people who stick to their point of contention. 

Point to note here, agreeability of a person should not be seen as weakness but the person’s willingness to let go of his version of an event for the greater good.

Factor 5. Neuroticism/Emotional Stability

This trait is about the person’s ability to handle negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, fear or depression. If the person is aggressive, easily irritated, volatile and has a low tolerance for stress, then they are not ideally transformational leaders. As per,

Neuroticism is a long-term tendency to be in a negative or anxious emotional state. It is not a medical condition but a personality trait.

Managers that showcase emotional stability who are not affected much by negative feelings are ideal for Transformational Leadership.

Effectiveness Against Other Leadership Styles

While Transformational Leadership Theory is better over other leadership styles, it has been observed, small, privately owned organisations perform best with this leadership style. Mostly, it is the charisma of the leader that determines the level of transformational leadership maturity which takes the team towards success.  Let us take a while to pitch it against 2 other famous leadership styles; The Transactional Leadership and Laissez-Faire Leadership.

Transactional Leadership

This style of leadership is mostly based on give and take. The leadership provides certain perks on reaching a milestone in an organisation. On the contrary, if one fails to perform up to the level for which they have been hired, are often punished, criticized or even fired from the job. Leaders use authority instead of vision in this case. This type of leadership  is pretty effective and most companies have adopted it. The reason behind it is, it works. However, during crisis situations when the company is not able to provide perks inline with the employee performance, employees leave that organisation. Only if the leadership had been transformational, had invested in employee potential and built a vision to which the employee can relate, then they would stick to the organization even when situations are not very favourable. They stick due to the greater purpose than them. This is the power of Transformational Leadership Theory.

Laissez-Faire Leadership

This style of leadership deals in achievement of objectives with least involvement of the leader. All the team members are empowered and allowed freedom to make decisions. It functions well when all the team members are well skilled, motivated and share common goals. However, it becomes really difficult to execute a project with this approach if the team is not skilled enough or motivated towards the goal. Some may linger behind due to skill gap, some may be upto the same speed as other team members. Since there is not much involvement of the leader, any dispute or differences in the team bleeds the project of precious time. Other problems that plague this model are, low accountability, leadership remains disconnected from the team, limited involvement of unmotivated team members and missed schedule. While this leadership can thrive if the team is equally skilled, but that is rarely the case. So using Transformational Leadership Theory can help in such cases. The team is inspired, kept empowered and the leader also gets involved with the team. This helps to steer the company to repeatable success.

Practicing transformational leadership almost always adds value not only to the team and the manager, but also the brand. The company that has most managers practising transformational leadership earn a brand name altogether. They manage to scoop the best talents from their talent hunts as many fresh passouts line up to work for them.

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