Transformational Leadership – What is this anyway?

Vision Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.

Recently, I was asked to be a guest panelist on a Moody Radio affiliate’s program that was delving deeper into the subject of leadership. The questions were general – What makes an effective leader? Is there a crisis in effective leadership? For months into years now, I have heard the term “transformational leader” – how to become one, what one is doing in Africa or elsewhere on the planet, or heard the term referenced in a conference. But what in the world does one of these Transformational Leader people look like ? The following will shed light in layman’s terms on this oft used phrase.

A Transformational Leader has extremely high aptitude in mining gifts and abilities of people while focusing them on a specific goal or higher calling. These actions will result in significant change in an environment; organization, city, nation, etc. These leaders are visionaries with dynamic ability in the area of communication; they are precise, articulate and powerful in vision casting and enrolling people to follow a cause. A transformational leader will use the entire person, looking for potential motives within them that will engage the person toward their cause. This approach actually accomplishes longer periods of engagement and higher degrees of performance, while achieving a better long-term result. When a leader identifies what motivates a person, he / she can also tap into purpose and when purpose is extracted, and opportunities to work in that area are provided, this creates influence, admiration, loyalty and trust from the follower to the leader. Through the use of this model, people remain encouraged, and find fulfillment in their roles, particularly when empowered in these roles by the leadership.

James MacGregor Burns has written an exceptional book on Transformational Leadership simply entitled “Leadership” where he thoroughly unpacks the meaning of this subject. He states that “moral leadership always returns to the fundamental wants, needs, aspirations and values of the followers.” He further explains, “The leader who commands compelling causes has an extraordinary potential for influence over followers. Followers armed by moral aspiration, mobilized and purposeful, become zealots and leaders in their own rights.” What also occurs is that the transformational leader himself / herself is energized because they now become a moral exemplar while a transfer of energy occurs between them and their followers. They both enjoy a relationship that is mutually stimulating and rewarding.

Dr. John C. Maxwell states that Transformational Leaders are more than just leaders. Transformational leaders are leaders that have been personally transformed themselves and because they have been transformed they have a passion to change others. They are not leaders by career but by calling. Their “why” and their purpose is greater than themselves.

But are we suffering from a crisis of ineffective or non-transformational leadership styles in today’s society? There are many very good leaders but it appears there simply are not enough of them. If good leadership is measured by social change then where is it? If there is a crisis of leadership today could it be due to mediocrity or lack of initiative or responsibility by people in these positions of power? How do we measure successful leadership? That is the other good question – so I am glad you asked. We must establish benchmarks so when the social, business, government, family needle does move, we can be encouraged to know we are working in the right direction (or be given a reality check when we are not). What are the goals we face and how do we motivate people to be change agents for the work that lies before all of us? How do we, on a large scale, connect a focused motive to a power source then measure it successfully? That is what a transformational leader can accomplish.

Lastly, in our radio panel discussion on Moody, we also discussed the topic of places for parents to send their children or for anyone to go to be taught leadership principles and to be developed into leaders. Our schools and churches are and must become better laboratories for leadership because, like it or not, we are all leaders, leading and influencing people in our environments on a daily basis. Learning leadership qualities could be comparable to having high aptitude in math or English and can change the entire trajectory of one person’s life, particularly if combined with the knowledge of their purpose. We need schools and churches to get behind developing leaders in significant ways like never before.

Tracy Gatewood
Transformational Leadership – What is This Anyway ?
Marketplace and Ministry
All Rights Reserved  2021
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