What Is Transformational Leadership? And Why You Need It.

by Chris Futcher

What Is Transformational Leadership And Why You Need It - Cavendish Wood - BlogDigital transformation is taking place worldwide, and if businesses don’t keep up they will be left behind.

Getting there often feels impossible, though, when you think about the challenges of doing so. These include meeting customers’ expectations, applying new methodologies, and migrating to new systems while still being operational and competitive! It’s a tall order for any CIO, even if you are a leadership expert.

With the right kind of transformational leadership, however, you can pull it off. Transformational leadership will also help you achieve your digital goals on time and within budget.

What is transformational leadership?

So, what do I mean by the term transformational leadership? It might sound like a business buzzword, but it means using leaders whose style inspire others. Transformational leadership lets people reach new heights in ownership and good working principles. It means leaders who do more than just supervise the company’s change-over to digital systems, they motivate the workers too.

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This type of leadership builds up your company's culture through coaching and mentoring of the staff. It’s a known fact that transformational leadership styles will allow your team to grow and improve. Starting from having an interest only in their own benefit, they can develop to be more focused on the common good.


Why transformational leadership is important.

Sounds good, right? But why is transformational leadership important, and what does it have to do with changing your business to using technology? The most important aspect of digital transformation is the need to change the culture of your business. It’s not just about the systems you use; it’s about the way you do everything, from the values you follow to the mission and vision of the future your company holds.

There’s also a huge difference between transforming and transactional leadership. These two types of leadership are complete opposites of each other. Transactional leaders are more focused on maintaining the status quo and keeping people motivated using the old “carrot or the stick” idea. Strong transformational leadership does more than just make the company use technology better, however. It aims to inspire your employees to care personally about the company’s success. It also teaches them to be:

  • more responsive to the demands of technology,
  • more open to change, and
  • willing to try new ways of doing things.


Does transformational leadership work?

Transformational leadership works because it results in good, strong growth and develops followers into future leaders. Most management teams will spend money to transform a company digitally only if they are certain it will succeed. Research shows there is a strong link between transformational leadership and company success, and there are examples that transformational leadership goes beyond just supervising, to motivate employees to adopt company values and goals as their own. But it's not a perfect approach, it does have its advantages and disadvantages.

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In a TED talk, Al Gore's former speechwriter Dan Pink says motivation encourages creativity, which is important to digital transformation. Trying to make the move to digital without transformational leadership, in that case, would probably not work.


The four elements of transformational leadership.

There are four main elements at the root of transformational leadership theory, which are:

#1: Idealised Influence

A transformational leader is a role model who influences others through values, convictions, and principles followed in their actions. These factors help them to build trust with their followers and confidence in their leadership.

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#2: Inspirational Motivation

Motivating staff depends on a leader’s ability to inspire confidence and purpose in employees. A good leader needs to have a clear vision for the future, be able to explain what he expects and be committed to company objectives. Strong leaders sound like they know what they are talking about and inspire staff to reach higher levels of morality.

#3: Individualised Consideration

Everyone is motivated by different things, so blanket consideration of your staff isn’t going to work. True transformational leaders find out what works for each person, and make it happen it in a way that gives each employee a sense of personal ownership.

#4: Intellectual Stimulation

To get the best from workers, a strong leader encourages them to see the big picture. This changes how they think about company problems and involves them in important decisions. It also challenges them to try and be more innovative and creative in their work.


Who invented transformational leadership?

The concept of transformational leadership has been growing and changing ever since it was first heard of. Although the term was originally suggested by James V. Downton in 1973, the idea only really took off after a book written by James MacGregor Burns was published in 1978. The modern idea of transformational leadership is based on another book written in 1985 by researcher Bernard M. Bass, which was called Leadership and Performance. In this book, the researcher tried hard to highlight the psychological factors affecting transformational leadership.

While transformational leadership is a well-known leadership style that you can use in many different environments, it works particularly well in the fast-paced digital technology world. For companies that are considering switching to digital, strategy and quality leadership can be barriers to success. By adopting a transformational form of leadership, however, you can give your business the drive it needs to change at every level.

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Examples of transformational leaders.

Some of the most successful transformational leaders in the world include people with household names like Sir Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, and Queen Elizabeth I. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with their philosophies or not; what counts is the ability they have/had to inspire others and to lead their followers down the road less taken. They are able to get people to advance to a higher level of morality and motivation, and they deliver results in whatever they do.

Take Sir Charlie Mayfield, for example. As the Chair of Britain’s top-performing organisation John Lewis (at least, until he steps down in 2020), Mayfield started a transformational profit-sharing model that gives staff bonuses of up to 20% of their salaries. Talk about individual consideration!

The right leadership can make or break the technological changes in your business. Strong, inspired leaders are key to a digital transformation that keeps you ahead of your competition.


Is your organisation ready for digital transformation?

Find out if your leaders and other key areas of your business are ready for a successful digital transformation.