12 Characteristics of Transformational Leadership

12 Characteristics of Transformational Leadership

Everyone has their own leadership style and the type of leader that you are at the beginning of your career doesn’t necessarily dictate the type of leader you will be throughout your journey.

With so many different leadership styles to choose from, it can be difficult knowing which style of leader you are or which will suit you. Transformational leadership is a style that has grown in popularity in recent years.

But what exactly is it, what are the benefits and what are the characteristics of a transformational leader?

What Is Transformational Leadership?

Transformational leadership is a principle that was developed in the early 1970s. It aims to create positive growth and development within employees. This, in turn, creates benefits for companies and industries as a whole.

When used effectively, transformational leadership can boost morale, increase employee performance, improve motivation and provide higher levels of staff satisfaction.

Individuals who use transformational leadership believe that by motivating their staff members, they can create growth in individual employees, which will benefit the company as a whole.

Essentially, they do this by giving their staff members the tools that they need to learn how to make decisions and gain valuable independence skills. These skills will go on to enable employees to progress through their own careers, eventually becoming leaders in their own right.

12 Key Characteristics of a Transformational Leader

Each person is unique, which means that no two transformational leaders will be exactly the same. They will all add elements of their own personality to the way that they approach leadership. They are also likely to be influenced by the industry or business that they work in.

This combination of personality and experience will give them a viewpoint and approach which is unlike that of anyone else.

Trusts in Employees

A transformational leader needs to have a high level of trust in their employees. They will be trusting them to make the right choices when it comes to managing their time and completing projects.

By doing this, employees are able to have a higher level of independence and creativity when it comes to deciding how best to deal with a situation. They will also learn core skills related to problem solving and managing unexpected situations.

Vision/Big Picture

Individuals who use transformational leadership in the workplace need to have their eye on the big picture. They need to be able to see the end result that they want to achieve to inspire their team members to work towards it.

This will also help to motivate employees, as they will know what it is that they are working towards. Being able to see the big picture will also help to ensure that everyone is able to visualize the result that they hope to achieve when things look as though they are going off target.

Role Model

Individuals who use transformational leadership techniques understand that one of the best ways to inspire team members is to act as a role model for them. They lead by example and show their team members what it is that they need to do.

Doing this helps to highlight the attitude that is required to produce results and encourages staff members to use their initiative when it comes to approaching tasks or managing projects.


This form of leadership focuses on the importance of teamwork and understands that when each individual employee is able to work to their strengths, progress will be made within the team as a whole.

This can also be seen in the way that transformational leaders understand the bigger picture. They are able to see how each individual team member works together to create positive results.

Strong Interpersonal Skills, Emotional Intelligence and Active Listening

Transformational leaders need to be able to do more than just motivate their team members to work.

They also need to be able to really listen and understand what their team is telling them. The ability to listen and communicate with team members clearly and without judgment is important for employees to be able to feel confident in their abilities.

Effective communication, interpersonal skills and active listening will also help staff members to feel as though they are valued and respected by their employers.

Encourages Participation

Transformational leadership works because team members learn how to be better at what they do. They learn leadership skills of their own and independent thought processes.

The best way to do this is through trial and error. Things won’t go completely to plan every single time, but this is how people will learn from their mistakes.

A successful transformational leader will understand that action creates leaders. They will expect their team members to participate, they will ask for thoughts and ideas to be shared and they will encourage individuals to be active members of a team.

Encourages Innovation and Creativity

Change is essential for growth. For change to happen, new ideas need to be developed, and employees need to feel as though they have space to be creative in the way that they think and approach tasks.

A transformational leader knows the importance of continuous innovation and will encourage their team members to think creatively in relation to everything that they do.

Willing to Take Risks

Nothing happens without risks and not all of these risks will pay off. Growth and learning happen when mistakes are made and chances are taken.

An effective transformational leader will understand that risks are a part of business and that at times risks will need to be taken. To do this properly, they will need to know when a risk is worth taking and when the potential negatives outweigh the positives.

Takes Responsibility

Transformational leadership works on the basis of encouraging team members to think for themselves and grow as individuals. This helps to create growth within a company, as well as help individuals to understand their strengths.

However, no matter how much independence is encouraged, a team or department needs a leader. There has to be someone who is responsible for failures as well as successes.

A transformational leader will take responsibility for every eventuality. This is because they understand that even if their employees have made a decision that is based on their instincts, it is the leader who would have encouraged this.

12 Characteristics of Transformational Leadership
12 Characteristics of Transformational Leadership

Ability to Make Difficult Decisions

Being a leader isn’t always easy and it is important for a transformational leader to be able to make the difficult decisions as well as the easy ones.

No matter how much a leader encourages their team to think for themselves, they will always be the one in overall control.

This means that the final decisions will be theirs to make. Sometimes, this will mean making difficult choices or having difficult conversations with team members and other colleagues.

Integrity and Humility

Integrity is a relatively flexible concept in relation to the fact that each individual will have a slightly different idea of what it means. At its essence, integrity means having strong moral principles and a desire for honesty.

The addition of humility indicates that individuals aren’t focused on their ego and are modest in the way that they interact with others.

Transformational leaders are successful, in part, because others want to emulate them. For this reason, integrity and a sense of humility are vital.

These qualities will help to make them relatable to others. Future leaders will want to showcase this in their own leadership situations.

Communication Skills

A factor in almost every type of leadership is the ability to communicate effectively.

Leaders need to be able to communicate with their team members in a way that is easily understood, concise and appropriate for the situation. This can mean being able to tailor the language and method of communication used depending on who it is that they are communicating with.

Not only does good communication mean that people can understand what is required of them, it also means that staff members are more likely to feel as though they are valued. This helps to build lasting and genuine relationships which, in turn, will help to improve the performance of a team as a whole.

When Is Transformational Leadership Effective?

Transformational leadership can be used by almost anyone in almost any situation. The main objective is to inspire employees to be the best versions of themselves to achieve the best possible results for a business.

For most people, this will mean giving employees more freedom and encouraging them to be creative in their approach to solving problems.

This doesn’t mean, however, that it works every time. As with any form of leadership, there will be some employees who don’t benefit from transformational leadership the way that others do.

This could be because their personality would lend itself better to an alternative form of leadership or perhaps they work better when they have more direction and focus.

It can also mean that employees are more likely to experience exhaustion and burnout as they are continuously encouraged to go the extra mile and push themselves further.

Frequently Asked Questions

The purpose of transformational leadership is for employers to get the best possible performance out of their staff members. This is done by enabling individuals to use their own skills and talents to make decisions regarding projects and other work-related tasks.

By doing this, employees are able to develop leadership skills of their own as well as gain a better understanding of their specialist skills.

One of the most important things when it comes to transformational leadership is good, consistent communication.

This is because the theory of transformational leadership relies on individuals working as a team, communicating ideas and discussing options before encouraging each individual to use their unique skills and abilities to complete tasks and achieve goals.

By encouraging a system that relies on communication to be successful, it means that staff members will be consistently encouraged to maintain and improve their communication skills. Without this, messages can be misunderstood and problems can occur.

The whole point of transformational leadership is to encourage individuals to become the best possible versions of themselves to increase their performance and productivity at work.

By encouraging people to think for themselves and embrace creativity in their approach to problem solving, individuals are motivated and empowered to do more and take risks. Employees respond well to this because they are mentally stimulated and feel valued for their individual skills.

No matter how positive a working environment is, conflict will happen. Personalities will clash and individuals will fall out with one another.

This can be for a large number of reasons, but it is important for the person in a leadership role to know how to manage these issues when they occur.

For someone who runs their department, team or company using transformational leadership, resolving issues will often come down to being able to communicate in a way that makes everyone feel valued. Employees should feel comfortable in voicing their opinion and feelings regarding situations.

By encouraging this, individuals will be able to voice the issues that have created conflict. When individuals feel as though they are listened to, they are also more likely to listen. This gives transformational leaders the opportunity to talk through problems and reach a solution that everyone is happy with.

If you are considering trying transformational leadership methods with your team at work, then it is probably a good idea to think about which transformational leadership characteristics are personal strengths and which ones you perhaps need to work on. It could be that you are naturally very good at allowing others to express their creativity, but struggle with communication.

When you know the areas that you struggle with, you can research courses and options for improving these areas. Most of them can be improved without the need for external input. Often you will just need to take more opportunities to practice the skills that don’t come naturally to you.

For example, if you feel that you struggle to be a good role model, consider mentoring someone who has less experience than yourself. Mentoring will allow you to practice these skills on a smaller scale, with a situation that is one-on-one rather than managing an entire team.

Final Thoughts

Transformational leadership has very quickly become one of the most popular forms of leadership within the business world. It can be used in any industry and by any individual.

When used properly, transformational leadership enables employers to give their staff the skills that they will need to be able to take on leadership roles themselves in the future.

It also allows for greater freedom and creativity within the workplace, with each employee able to use their individual skills and talents to provide optimum results.

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