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Transformational leadership enhances the motivation, morale, and job performance of followers through a variety of mechanisms. These include connecting the follower's sense of identity and self to the project and the collective identity of the organization; being a role model for followers that inspires them and makes them interested; challenging followers to take greater ownership for their work, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of followers, so the leader can align followers with tasks that enhance their performance.
The concept of transformational leadership was initially introduced by leadership expert and presidential biographer James MacGregor Burns. According to Burns, transformational leadership can be seen when "leaders and followers make each other to advance to a higher level of morality and motivation." Through the strength of their vision and personality, transformational leaders are able to inspire followers to change expectations, perceptions, and motivations to work towards common goals. Unlike in the transactional approach, it is not based on a "give and take" relationship, but on the leader's personality, traits and ability to make a change through example, articulation of an energizing vision and challenging goals. Transforming leaders are idealized in the sense that they are a moral exemplar of working towards the benefit of the team, organization and/or community. Burns theorized that transforming and transactional leadership were mutually exclusive styles. Later, researcher Bernard M. Bass expanded upon Burns' original ideas to develop what is today referred to as Bass’ Transformational Leadership Theory. According to Bass, transformational leadership can be defined based on the impact that it has on followers. Transformational leaders, Bass suggested, garner trust, respect, and admiration from their followers.
Bernard M. Bass (1985), extended the work of Burns (1978) by explaining the psychological mechanisms that underlie transforming and transactional leadership. Bass introduced the term "transformational" in place of "transforming." Bass added to the initial concepts of Burns (1978) to help explain how transformational leadership could be measured, as well as how it impacts follower motivation and performance. The extent to which a leader is transformational, is measured first, in terms of his influence on the followers. The followers of such a leader feel trust, admiration, loyalty and respect for the leader and because of the qualities of the transformational leader are willing to work harder than originally expected. These outcomes occur because the transformational leader offers followers something more than just working for self gain; they provide followers with an inspiring mission and vision and give them an identity. The leader transforms and motivates followers through his or her idealized influence (earlier referred to as charisma), intellectual stimulation and individual consideration. In addition, this leader encourages followers to come up with new and unique ways to challenge the status quo and to alter the environment to support being successful. Finally, in contrast to Burns, Bass suggested that leadership can simultaneously display both transformational and transactional leadership.
Now 30 years of research and a number of meta-analyses have shown that transformational and transactional leadership positively predicts a wide variety of performance outcomes including individual, group and organizational level variables.
The full range of leadership introduces four elements of transformational leadership:
Each element is connected because there is a basis of respect, encouragement, and influence that is involved in transformational leadership. The personality of the leader has to be genuine because any chance of inconsistency for the followers and all trust is gone, and the leader has failed.
As a development tool, transformational leadership has spread already in all sectors of western societies, including governmental organizations. As an example, the Finnish Defense Forces is widely using Deep Lead© Model as basic solution of its leadership training and development. The Deep Lead© Model is based on the theory of transformational leadership.
Earlier research on transformational leadership was limited, because the knowledge in this area was too primitive for finding good examples for the items in the questionnaire. Another weakness in the first version of the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) related to the wording of items. Most items in the scale of charismatic leadership described the result of leadership, instead of specific actions of the leader that can be observed and that, in turn, lead to the results. In response to the critics, Bass and Avolio (1990) included in the revised and now subsequent versions many more items that describe leadership actions that are observed directly. They also split out attributions of leadership associated with Idealized Influence and behaviors and actions into two separate scales.
The current version of the MLQ Form 5X includes 36 items that are broken down into 9 scales with 4 items measuring each scale. Subsequent validation work by John Antonakis and his colleagues provided strong evidence supporting the validity and reliability of the MLQ5X. Indeed, Antonakis et al. (2003) confirmed the viability of the proposed nine-factor model MLQ model, using two very large samples (Study 1: N=3368; Study 2: N=6525). Although other researchers have still been critical of the MLQ model, since 2003 none has been able to provide dis-confirming evidence of the theorized nine-factor model with such large sample sizes at those published by Antonakis et al. (2003).
Yukl (1994) draws some tips for transformational leadership:
ABSTRACT A perioperative nurse leader’s ability to effect positive change and inspire others to higher levels of achievement is related to his or her leadership style in the practice setting and the leadership style that is present across the organization. The American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet™ designation and redesignation process requires the demonstration of transformational leadership as one of the components of excellence. Transformational leadership can increase nurses’ job satisfaction and commitment to the organization and organizational culture. Engaging staff members in the transition to transformational leadership and developing a common mission, vision, and goals are keys to success in the surgical setting. Bass’s four interrelated leadership components—idealized inﬂuence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration—and associated behaviors were used by surgical services leaders in an East Coast, two-hospital system to successfully achieve redesignation as a Magnet facility.