Don’t be just a leader, be a transformational leader

There are two basic kinds of leaders out there—the ones you want to do work for, and the ones you don’t. That may be overgeneralized, but most supervisory experiences fall into one of those two categories.

Sometimes your first line, your direct supervisor or even your commander brings out the best in you and makes you want to generate the highest quality of work. And other times, well, you may find yourself slacking off, avoiding work or completing tasks only to the minimum standard because your team’s leader just doesn’t inspire you to care enough about the task at hand.

Clearly, we’d all like to be the former. We want to encourage, inspire and motivate subordinates to do the best job they can and to offer them a safe, creative, engaging environment in which to do so. This inspiring style of leadership has a name—it’s called transformational leadership. Though it may seem challenging to be this motivational guiding light, there are plenty of tips and suggestions out there that can help you become the transformational leader you want to be.

Transformational leadership is a style of leadership in which leaders engage in interactions with subordinates that transcend short-term goals and, instead, focus on the higher order intrinsic needs of their followers. There are four main dimensions of transformational leadership: idealized influence (charisma), inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (Judge & Piccolo, 2004).

A transformational leader inspires people to achieve unexpected or remarkable results. It gives people autonomy over specific jobs, as well as the authority to make decisions once they have been trained.

In general, research evidence suggests that transformational leadership affects numerous employee outcomes, including job satisfaction (Judge & Piccolo, 2004), motivation (Judge & Piccolo, 2004), creativity (Cheung & Wong, 2011), and overall employee performance (Wang, Oh, Courtright, & Colbert, 2011). Transformational leadership has been shown to improve team outcomes, such as trust and collective efficacy, which, in turn, improves team performance (Chou, Lin, Chang, & Chuang, 2013).

So how to put this into practice in a military setting? Task and Purpose offers four great tips to get you started on your path to transformational leadership. Conrad Brown writes, “Transformational leadership can be broken down to four basic, mutually supporting behaviors, referred to as the “4 Is” — idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. Further research has broken them down into as many as six, but for the sake of brevity, these are the most critical.”

This means taking time to hear the opinions of your staff, taking time to help some problem solve on a micro level, recognizing and setting goals toward each individual team member’s strengths, or incorporate inspiring or teambuilding activities into your routines.

He notes that it is important to ask yourself if you achieved these four behaviors each day and assess how you could have done so.

For further information on transformation leadership, I highly recommend you read Pamela Spahr’s article at St. Thomas University Online, which gives examples of effective transformational leadership throughout history and a more detailed look at implementation.