What makes someone a transformational leader?


When considering great leaders throughout history, the names of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John F. Kennedy are certain to come to mind. These individuals were effective at envisioning change in society and then bringing these visions to reality (Greenberg, 2005). People who revitalize and transform society or organizations are known as transformational leaders.  Dr. King’s famous “I have a dream” speech inspired people to support the civil rights movement and President Kennedy’s shared vision of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth” inspired the “space race” of the 1960’s. For these reasons, they are considered transformational leaders. Although these examples are useful we must ask: Exactly what makes a leader transformational? After looking at the leadership literature, I have listed several key characteristics of transformational leaders (Greenberg, 2005).

– Charisma: Transformational leaders have a mission and inspire others to follow them, often in a highly emotional manner.

– Self-Confidence: Transformational leaders are highly confident in their abilities and judgment, and others readily become aware of this. Self-confidence can be built up from improving your self-efficacy.

– Vision: Transformational leaders have ideas about how to improve the status quo and do what it takes to changes things for the better, even if it means making personal sacrifices.

– Environmental sensitivity: Transformational leader are highly realistic about constraints imposed on them and the resources needed to change things. They know what they can and cannot do.

– Intellectually stimulating: Transformational leaders help followers recognize problems and show them ways of solving them.

– Interpersonal consideration: Transformational leaders give followers the support, encouragement, and attention they need to to perform their jobs well.

– Inspiration: Transformational leaders clearly communicate the importance of the company’s mission and rely on symbols (e.g. pins and slogans) to help focus their efforts.

– Morality: Transformational leaders tend to make decisions in a manner showing advanced levels of moral reasoning and ethical leadership.



Greenberg, J. (2005). Managing behavior in organizations. Pearson Prentice Hall.

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