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Groups that are led by this type of leader tend to be both successful and loyal.

Leadership isn’t about the leader’s needs — it’s about the needs of the people and organization they’re working in. There are multiple leadership styles, each with positive and negative attributes, but some are much more negative than others. This is why leaders need to know the transformational leadership style.

The transformational style has been identified as the most effective. This style was originally described by the researcher James Macgregor Burns in the late 1970’s and further developed by the researcher Bernard M. Bass in the mid 80’s. It focuses on the leader’s ability to motivate, inspire followers and direct positive changes in groups. Leaders who use this style tend to be emotionally intelligent, energetic and passionate. These leaders are committed to helping the organization achieve its goals, but also helping each member of the group reach their full potential.

Bass identified four different components of transformational leadership. The first is intellectual stimulation, meaning they challenge the status quo and encourage creativity among followers. Next is individualized consideration, which is offering support and encouragement to the group’s individuals and keeping communication lines open to foster supportive relationships. Next comes, inspirational motivation, which is done through articulating a clear vision to their followers. Finally, idealized influence is when the leader acts as a role model for their followers.

Groups that are led by this type of leader tend to be both successful and loyal. H. Ross Perot launched Electronic Data Systems in 1962 and employed transformational leadership in his company. After Perot worked at IBM for several years, he decided that using the traditional, top-down strategic planning was an obstacle to making quick decisions. He remedied this by giving his employes the authority to make smart decisions without having to seek approval from middle management, giving them more power and motivation. Transformational leaders like Perot care deeply about the group’s ability to accomplish their goals and give much to the team. Group turnover also tends to be low because these leaders are able to inspire commitment in their followers. Researchers have found that this style of leadership can have a positive effect on the group.

Leadership experts suggest having a strong, positive vision of the future is crucial to being a transformational leader. It’s important that the leader believes in the vision and makes the followers buy into the vision as well. Being genuine, passionate, supportive and trustworthy are all key characteristics that help motivate followers to support the goals for the group. A person can take a test to see if they’re a transformational leader.

A study revealed that transformational leadership can also have a positive influence on an employee’s well-being. The researchers discovered that employees who identified higher levels of transformational leadership in their employers also had higher levels of well-being. Even after researchers controlled for factors that are linked to well-being, such as job strain, education and age, the effects remain significant.  

Transformational leadership is the most effective leadership style in most situations, but sometimes a more autocratic style needs to be employed. This would be useful if the followers are unskilled and need a large amount of oversight. However, the autocratic style is much less effective than transformational, so it should only be used in certain scenarios. Since autocratic leaders make decisions without consulting the group, group members may dislike the decision itself, especially since they’re also unable to contribute ideas. With only one person making a decision, oftentimes the result lacks creative solutions, which will hurt the group.

The transformational leadership style can be highly effective when used appropriately. It allows for growth as an individual, a group and an organization. Using transformational leadership will garner trust, respect and admiration from followers.

Zach Melusen is a junior communication studies major. Contact Zach at meulsezj@dukes.jmu.edu.