Transformational Leadership

From apppm
Jump to: navigation, search

Written by Michael Vinther - s163490



This article will explore transformational Leadership from a project management perspective. Transformational Leadership is a leadership style that focuses on motivating people to reach a common goal. This leadership style actively encourages individuals to take responsibility for their work while striving for personal growth. Unlike traditional leadership models that rely on power dynamics, transformational leadership in project management places the project manager in a role model position. It is no longer sufficient for leaders in today's rapidly evolving business environment merely to manage; they must lead with purpose and inspiration. Transformational Leadership is one such approach that has emerged as an effective way to steer diverse teams toward shared goals through inspiration and motivation. [1] In this refere Specifically, within the realm of project management, transformational leadership helps managers rally their teams around a commonly agreed-upon objective while simultaneously promoting collaboration and encouraging creativity. Challenging assumptions, creating shared visions and offering dedicated support are three critical aspects of transformational leadership - a distinct style from others such as transactional leadership, which often involves exchanging rewards, or laissez-faire leadership, which provides little guidance. When utilized in project management contexts, transformational leadership enables managers to motivate their teams toward achieving shared goals underpinned by concrete visions. Transformational Leadership practices have gained widespread recognition within organizational settings due to their positive impacts on individual job satisfaction and engagement levels. These attributes are closely tied to improved project outcomes as well as enhanced team performance overall. One of the key features that set transformational leaders apart is their ability to provide tailored support for each employee on the team. Leaders focus on identifying individual strengths, weaknesses, and goals so that they can assign work responsibilities that align with staff interests while offering appropriate feedback along the way. Leaders who possess transformational leadership skills are not only able to inspire their teams but also motivate them toward achieving their objectives. Unlike transactional leaders who select rewards or punishments based on performance, transformational leadership shifts the focus towards building sustainable relationships among team members through trust-building activities. By sharing a unified vision for the future, these leaders commit themselves to promoting creativity and innovation in those they lead. By adopting the transformational leadership approach, leaders set themselves up as role models for their teams through mutually respectful relationships based on common values.


Understanding Transformational Leadership

Originally conceptualized by James MacGregor Burns in 1978 and further developed by Bernard Bass in subsequent decades, this leadership style has garnered widespread attention for its use in diverse contexts like project management. Its efficacy was found to lie precisely in instances where it fosters teamwork among team members who take personal responsibility for achieving specific goals. Transformational leadership is a potent approach to cultivating a sense of collaboration, establishing shared goals, and sparking creativity and innovation. Four elements delineate transformational leadership, namely idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. These critical components play a crucial role in how such leaders inspire and motivate their team members toward achieving mutual objectives. Idealized influence corresponds to the ability of the leader to become an embodiment of values and behaviors that they hope others will emulate. In order for organizations to thrive, transformational leaders must embody exceptional ethical standards while achieving their goals. This involves leading by example and motivating team members towards a common goal through inspirational motivation that provides them with a sense of direction.


The Characteristics of Transformational Leaders

Figure 1: 4 elements of transformational leadership [4]

Transformational leadership encompasses four fundamental components, often referred to as the "4 I's," which together shape the essence of this leadership style and its impact on followers. These components are: Idealized Influence, Inspirational Motivation, Individualized Consideration, and Intellectual Stimulation, as shown in figure 1. [5]

- Idealized Influence is the first component of transformational leadership, wherein the leader serves by leading by example. By consistently embodying the qualities they seek in their team, the leader "walks the talk" and becomes an admired figure. Their exemplary conduct creates a strong impression on others and builds respect. This admirable quality inspires employees to aspire to be more like their respective leaders while building trust and admiration.

- Individualized Consideration underscores the transformational leader's genuine concern for the individual needs and emotions of their followers. They demonstrate a personal commitment to each member, actively facilitating their self-actualization and growth. By offering individual attention and support, the transformational leader fosters trust and strengthens the bond between the leader and their followers. This mutual trust enables teams to collaborate more effectively, enhancing decision-making processes and promoting a sense of unity and shared purpose.

- Inspirational Motivation is a crucial trait of transformational leaders’ ability to motivate their followers through the articulation and communication of a compelling vision. With this skill, they can communicate an inspiring vision that instills their followers with purpose and enthusiasm. Idealized influence combined with inspirational motivation can be incredibly powerful, leading to exceptional levels of productivity.

- Intellectual Stimulation is the final component of transformational leadership, representing the leader's inclination to challenge their followers to think critically, be innovative, and challenge the current situation. Contrary to the misconception that transformational leaders are "soft," they consistently push their followers to reach higher levels of performance and surpass their own limitations. By encouraging creativity and stimulating intellectual growth, transformational leaders help their followers expand their perspectives and connect the dots, thereby fostering innovation and continuous improvement within the team. They understand the importance of investing time and effort into furthering innovation within their teams.

In summary, transformational leadership encompasses the four fundamental components of Idealized Influence, Inspirational Motivation, Individualized Consideration, and Intellectual Stimulation. This leadership style empowers leaders to lead by example, inspire their followers, cater to individual needs, and encourage intellectual growth. By embracing these components, transformational leaders create a positive and influential environment that fosters trust, unity, innovation, and continuous improvement within their teams.[6]

The personality traits of transformational Leaders

Correlation graph

The effectiveness of transformative leadership largely hinges on the individual leading it — namely their personality. In exploring this connection between personality traits and transformative leadership efficacy, "Personality and Transformational and Transactional Leadership: A Meta Analysis" sheds light on the five traits that contribute to successful transformational leadership. [7] The five traits are:

Neuroticism characterizes people who typically have unfavorable views about their surroundings and frequently experience profound feelings of fear, guilt, and anger. Researchers show that there is a strong connection neuroticism and both low self-esteem as well as general low confidence.

Extraversion is a personality trait that is characterized by assertiveness, activity level, talkativeness, optimism, and high energy. Notedly the people who show signs of this type also tend to seek excitement as well as social attention. Due to their optimistic outlook on life extroverts make exceptional leaders as they inspire confidence and enthusiasm in others with their positive nature. Moreover, they thrive on change which further contributes to their inclination toward intellectual stimulation.

Openness is a personality trait that is characterized by being generally more creative, introspective, and resourceful while being able to engage in divergent thinking when required. Talking about leadership, having openness is linked with transformational leadership where leaders can inspire others through visionary leadership style alongside their ability to think creatively. They often display inspirational behaviors towards others due to their imaginative nature. This allows them to envision the future of an organization better while contributing towards making a flexible organizational culture that encourages learning, and growth while enabling innovation opportunities among team members.

Agreeableness is a personality trait characterized by people who prioritize maintaining good relationships and feeling empathy and concern for other people while avoiding conflicts. In terms of leadership style individuals scoring high in agreeableness demonstrate specific behaviors centered around personal growth and development. This approach promotes teamwork while fostering loyalty amongst everyone in the group.

Conscientiousness is a personality trait characterized by people having exceptional focus when pursuing set objectives. They tend to exhibit cautious tendencies combined with deliberate actions alongside self-discipline that value organization highly. Conscientious leaders usually exhibit less passive behavior in fulfilling their organizational responsibilities due to their dependability, self-discipline, and willingness to take on leadership roles. While conscientiousness might not necessarily imply visionary thinking or creativity - it still plays a crucial role in effective leadership by emphasizing goal completion & task execution while incorporating attention-to-detail abilities.

The research indicates correlations between specific personality traits and transformational leadership practices that may hold significance for organizations aiming to implement transformational leadership. The results are displayed in the Correlation graph.

Extraversion had the highest positive correlation: 0.29, Neuroticism showed a negative correlation: -0.13, Openness had a positive correlation: 0.14, Agreeableness had a positive correlation: 0.17, Conscientiousness had a positive correlation: 0.19, These results indicate the critical role of personality in shaping a leader's capacity to undertake transformative initiatives successfully. Outgoing leaders who possess high levels of extraversion tend to inspire those around them through their energetic nature whereas low levels of neuroticism help promote emotional stability that instills confidence within teams during challenging times. To select effective transformational leaders, organizations must consider candidates' unique personalities that display qualities conducive to the desired outcome such as inspiring motivation or generating positive change within working environments.

Transformational compared to transactional leadership and laissez-faire leadership

Relative Validity Graph

In a project-based setting, leadership style plays a critical role in ensuring the success of the project. The Article "Transformational and Transactional Leadership: A Meta-Analytic Test of Their Relative Validity"[8] is an article that provides insights into how leadership styles could be evaluated. In this analysis, Transformational, Transactional Leadership, and Laissez-faire leadership are compared. Transactional Leadership is based on management giving rewards or punishments based on employees’ performance. Laissez-faire leadership based little guidance or direction to employees but instead entrusts them with managing their responsibilities independently. The study was based on 626 correlations from 87 sources to determine how different leadership styles would yield various outcomes. They measured Indicators such as Follower job satisfaction, Follower satisfaction with leader, Follower motivation, Leader job performance and Leader effectiveness to determine which approach was most effective. The research findings show differences between transformational and transactional Leadership. The study found that transformational leadership had an overall validity of 0.44, while Transactional Leadership had an overall validity of 0.39, indicating both had a positive relationship with the evaluated criteria. Laissez-faire leadership yielded a validity of -0,37, suggesting a negative association with the evaluated criteria. It was found that among employees, transformational leadership resulted in higher job satisfaction rates along with increased motivation compared to the transactional leadership approach. While transactional leadership styles can indeed be effective in certain scenarios, such as straightforward targets or regular tasks, transformational leadership has increasingly become the preferred choice for motivating and inspiring personnel to achieve better results. Transformational leadership tends to be more effective in a project-based setting. This is because transactional leadership is more focused on inspiring and motivating followers to achieve their potential. These characteristics contribute to higher levels of motivation, engagement, commitment, teamwork, and innovation, which are crucial for successful project outcomes. Transactional leadership is more focused on maintaining the current and ensuring that work is done efficiently. While there may still be situations where transactional is superior, it's clear that transformational leadership is likely to yield superior results in project-based environments.

Advantages and disadvantages of transformational leadership

The use of transformational leadership has both advantages and disadvantages, as listed below.


Performance and Productivity: Transformational leaders inspire team members to achieve more than they thought possible by setting challenging yet achievable goals while also providing ongoing guidance and support along the way. Moreover, they foster an environment where employees feel connected through a shared vision while also encouraging personal growth within each person's unique career path. The result is a workforce that is highly motivated to surpass established benchmarks leading to enhanced productivity benefits at both individual employee levels as well as across organizational systems.

Employee Satisfaction and Commitment: Transformational leaders can significantly influence job satisfaction levels within organizations. Being both charismatic and inspirational in leadership style leads to a work environment that nurtures inclusion among workers increasing engagement levels within teams. Transforming leaders intentionally prioritize building robust relationships with team members through listening closely to ideas, and providing support where necessary while giving recognition for contributions made; hence enhancing overall job satisfaction rates leading to reduced turnover rates.

Innovation and Creativity: Transformational leaders have a critical role in creating an innovative culture within organizations by encouraging their teams' creative problem-solving abilities. By empowering employees they will rethink existing processes while challenging established norms, ultimately generating unique perspectives towards achieving progressive results.

Organizational Commitment: In order to cultivate strong organizational commitment among employees, leaders must employ a persuasive vision that aligns personal values with those of the organization. Active involvement in decisions making processes coupled with individual growth opportunities builds trust between leaders and staff while ensuring employee contributions are acknowledged regularly. [9]


Focus on long-term succes: One drawback of transformational leadership is its tendency to focus more on long-term objectives, potentially neglecting short-term goals. While this flexibility allows for adaptive approaches, leaders should employ management strategies alongside transformational leadership. For instance, collaborating with team members to set short-term goals can provide structure, direction, and balance, ensuring the achievement of project milestones while empowering individuals to define their own objectives.

Alleviating burnout: Transformational leadership fosters employee motivation, but leaders must address the risk of burnout. Encouraging growth and high performance in the workplace can be demanding, so it is essential for transformative leaders to prioritize work-life balance. Leaders can reduce burnout and promote job satisfaction by prioritizing the well-being of their employees and offering support to help them meet personal needs and obligations. Prioritizing work life balance is essential in supporting your teams long term success while safeguarding against negative outcomes.

Overcoming communication hurdles: Successful transformational leadership relies on consistent and effective communication, which can pose challenges for leaders juggling multiple responsibilities. To be effective, leaders should establish open communication policies that facilitate feedback exchange. While this approach works well for small teams or industries with frequent collaboration, leaders must consider their specific workplace and team dynamics to determine appropriate communication methods that suit their needs.

Potential ineffective decision making: Transformational leadership can slow down decision-making processes as it involves gathering input from all team members. While inclusive decision making can offer a more diverse perspective, it may not always be accurate. Leaders employing the transformational style should discern when to involve the entire team in decision-making and when to make decisions on behalf of their teams. For instance, leaders working with small, highly collaborative teams may opt for group decision making more frequently compared to those leading larger teams. [10]


Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, provides an inspiring example of transformational leadership[11] . He empowers his team through promoting creativity and innovation while also encouraging calculated risk-taking to achieve their objectives. “I don’t create companies for the sake of creating companies, but to get things done.” He embodies an unparalleled visionary mindset coupled with charismatic communication skills, inspiring not only his employees but also his peers in the industry. His team members embrace his mission which sets the tone for their work. One compelling example that showcases Musk's ability to leverage challenges, occurred during the development and launch of the Falcon 1[12] rocket back in 2002 when SpaceX faced limited funding and encountered multiple failed rocket launches. However, thanks to Elon Musk, these challenges were successfully transformed into opportunities for growth. Throughout the development phase, Musk remained deeply involved in troubleshooting while making critical decisions that ultimately made all the difference in the end product. Their grit and tenacity paid off when they made history in 2008 by launching the Falcon 1 into orbit - an unprecedented feat for any privately funded company using a liquid-fueled rocket for space exploration purposes. This momentous event stands as a testament to Musk's transformational leadership skills, as he guided strategy development and fostered an atmosphere of cooperation characterized by innovative resourcefulness within SpaceX. Elon Musk exemplifies visionary leadership, demonstrating that remarkable achievements are not solely dependent on resources or talent, but also on exceptional leadership skills. At SpaceX, Musk has revolutionized project management by inspiring creativity, nurturing innovation, maintaining an unwavering commitment to ambitious goals in the face of challenges, and exhibiting resilience under pressure, all while keeping a clear focus on the possibilities in space exploration. His approach serves as an outstanding example of how transformative leadership can result in extraordinary results within an industry.[13]

Annotated Bibliography

Bass, B. M., & Riggio, R. E. (2006). Transformational leadership (2nd ed.). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers. - This publication presents a thorough review of research that has investigated the influence of transformational leadership on individual and organizational outcomes. Notably it demonstrate how transformative leaders have been able to positively impact factors such as follower satisfaction rates and motivation levels leading to higher quality performance results, all while contributing to increase general effectiveness across entire organizations.

Bono, J. E., & Judge, T. A. (2004). Personality and Transformational and Transactional Leadership: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(5), 901–910 This is a meta analysis by Bono & Judge where they aim to explore how individual differences in personalities traits impact transformational & transactional leadership style. Their goal is to provide readers with a comprehensive summary of past research which can help them understand how certain behavioral patterns demonstrated by leaders arise due to individual personalities’ disposition towards certain attributes or factors.

Judge, Timothy & Piccolo, Ronald. (2004). Transformational and Transactional Leadership: A Meta-Analytic Test of Their Relative Validity. The Journal of applied psychology. In this article, Judge and Piccolo conduct a meta-analytic study to examine the relative validity of transformational and transactional leadership styles.


  1. Title: What Is Transformational Leadership? Author(s): Kendra Cherry Website: Verywell Mind URL: [1]
  2. Smith, J. (2021). Transformational Leadership and Project Success: Serial Mediation of Team-Building and Teamwork. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 689311. Retrieved from [2]
  3. Transformational Leadership: An Evolving Concept Examined through the Works of Burns, Bass, Avolio, and Leithwood -
  4. Title: Effective Education in a College in Bangladesh: From Managerial to Transformational Leadership Author(s): Sarowardy, M.H., Halder, D.P., and Phillips, S.C. Publication Year: 2019 Journal Title: American Journal of Operations Research Volume: 9 Pages: 219-234 URL: [3]
  5. Title: TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP: THE TRANSFORMATION OF MANAGERS AND ASSOCIATES Author(s): Derek Farnsworth, Jennifer L. Clark, John Hall, Shannon Johnson, Allen Wysocki, and Karl Kepner Publication Year: 2020 Publisher: University of Florida IFAS Extension URL: [4]
  6. Bass, B. M., & Riggio, R. E. (2006). Transformational leadership (2nd ed.). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers
  7. Bono, J. E., & Judge, T. A. (2004). Personality and Transformational and Transactional Leadership: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(5), 901–910 -
  8. Title: Personality and Transformational and Transactional Leadership: A Meta-Analysis Author(s): Bono, J. E., & Judge, T. A. Publication Year: 2004 Journal Title: Journal of Applied Psychology Volume: 89 Issue: 5 Pages: 901–910 DOI: [5]
  9. Bass, B. M., & Riggio, R. E. (2006). Transformational leadership (2nd ed.). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers
  10. Bass, B. M., & Riggio, R. E. (2006). Transformational leadership (2nd ed.). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers
  11. Title: 4 Ways to Apply Elon Musk’s Leadership Style Author(s): HANNAH L. MILLER  Publication Year: 2023 Publisher: leaders URL:
  12. URL:
  13. Title: What SpaceX Can Teach Us About Effective Project Management Author(s): Juan van Niekerk Publication Year: 2027 URL:
Personal tools