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History of Transformational Leadership


Transformational leadership is a leadership style that is aimed at bringing positive change to its followers in an organization. A transformational leader should focus on transforming his followers so as to help each other, to search for each other and to encourage each other and to be harmonious. In this leadership theory the leader should always enhance the morale of his followers and also help in improving their performance. The development of transformational leadership is a collaboration of many researchers. These researchers have different views on the development of transformational leadership. These researchers include Downton, Bass, Burn and Avolio. The aim of this research paper is to explain the history of transformational leadership.

 History of transformational leadership

Downton first differentiated Transformational leadership from Transactional leadership then Burns introduced the idea of transformational leadership in 1978 in his study on political leaders. The transformational leadership style is currently used in most of the organization (Pearce, &Conger, 2003).   According to Burns view transformational leadership is a leadership style in which leaders and their followers should assist each other so as to improve their morale and motivation. Burns claims that there is difference between management and leadership. The difference is mainly on the characteristics of the leaders and behaviors. Burns has developed two leadership concepts. That is the transformational leadership and the transactional leadership (Bass, &Riggio, 2006).

Transformational leadership style is aimed at bringing change to the followers that is the employees in the organization and the organization. Transformational leadership should also change the values of the employees and organization and also their insight. Transformational leadership can also influence the follower’s expectation and the expectation of the organization and the aspiration of the followers by bringing change. Transformational leadership is different from the transactional leadership in that it is not based on the concepts of give and take but it mostly relies on the personality of the leader, his characteristics and ability to bring change to the organization and followers by developing goals that are clear and also having good visions (Pearce, &Conger, 2003). 

Leaders in transactional leadership exchange rewards for work. This is because the followers will work if only they are given rewards but in transformational leadership leaders do not use rewards to get followers attention but they only use leadership styles that motivate the followers and give the followers morale hence good performance. The transformational leadership was further developed by Bernard Bass who did not agree with Burns concept of transformational leadership and transactional leadership. In Bass concept of transformational leadership he believes that for a leader to be called a transformational leader he should show both traits of transformational leadership and transactional leadership (Bass, &Riggio, 2006).Bass argues that most of the leaders in current society show characteristics that are from transformational leadership and also transactional leadership. Thus the transformational leadership is made to strengthen transactional leadership. He further argues that transactional leadership styles does not bring dedication and hard work that is required to bring change in any organization but for transformational leadership it is easy to bring change to the organization as members are committed and put all their effort to work in the organization so as to achieve the goals set and the organizations vision. This leadership style can easily enhance production in an organization (Bass, &Riggio, 2006)


The degree into which a leader is transformational can be measured using his ability to influence his followers. This is because a transformational leader makes his followers to trust him, be loyal to him and also to respect him. A transformational leader should motivate his followers by charisma, intellectual stimulation and by considering the followers needs and concerns. This leader should be able to establish new ways to solve problems in the organization. The transformational leader should be flexible and willing to accept change (Ciulla, 2004).  Bass and Avolio have done research to map different leadership styles used by managers and commanders. These researchers combined the two leadership styles that is transformational leadership and the transactional leadership and developed a full range model. This full range model has the four elements that a transformational leader should show. Bass and Burn most focused on the study of transformational leadership in politics, army and business. Burns in his research discovered the differences between transformational leadership and transactional leadership. In his work he stated two factors that make this two leadership styles different (Ciulla, 2004).

First the transactional leadership is based on an exchange concept. This is because the followers in transactional leadership need their leaders to exchange their loyalty with rewards while in transformational leadership there are no rewards used to exchange for loyalty. The second factor is that the transformational leader should win the loyalty of their followers by motivating them and using good leadership methods. The transformational leaders motivate and also encourage their followers to leave their personal interest so as to work together to achieve the goal, mission and vision of the organization. The transformational leaders also raise the confidence of their followers and also widen their needs so as to support them to achieve higher (Antonakis, Cianciolo, &Sternberg, 2004).

The good relationship between a transformational leader and his followers makes the followers to perform well unlike in transactional leadership where the workers wait to be given reward. According to Bass there are four traits of transformational leadership that are found his full range model. The first characteristic is charisma; a leader with this trait should be able to present a mission to the followers and also to show plans for achieving the mission (Pearce, &Conger, 2003).  This will in turn make the follower to trust him, be proud of him and also to respect him. The transformational leader should be optimistic and also should be able to improve the follower’s morale. A transformational leader should be able to inspire his followers thus gaining respect and trust. The leader should also have respect and trust towards the followers so as to help each other in achieving the goals set in the organization.

The second characteristic of a transformational leader is the inspirational motivation the leader has (Pearce, &Conger, 2003).  The transformational leader should act like a role model so as to allow the followers to emulate him. He should also have a clear vision and also inform the followers and set clear plans of obtaining the goals set and also achieving his vision. This will be important because the followers will feel motivated hence they will work hard and improve the organization. The inspirations the leader will have will also influence the followers in that they will have confidence hence they will respect the leader and trust him. The leader should challenge his followers by providing high standards in the organization and also providing ways for handling tasks in the organization. The followers should have a purpose so that they can give the transformational leader a chance to motivate them. The purpose is a strong influence in the organization as it will make the employees active hence improving the organization or bringing change (Pearce, &Conger, 2003).

The third characteristic of transformational leadership is the extend in which a transformational leader attends to the needs of his followers. The transformational leader should act like a role model to the followers and he should also be patient and be able to listen to the needs of his followers and concerns. This is important as it will help the transformational leader and his followers in helping each other so as to achieve the organizations goals and vision and also for the followers to improve their lives. The transformational leader should be sympathetic and supportive so as to be able to meet the needs of the followers and also to bring change into the organization. The transformational leader should encourage open communication so as to ensure there is proper dialogue and feed back between him and the followers. This will be important to the followers and also the transformational leader as he will be able to attend to the needs of his followers openly and easily and also the followers will feel free to interact with the leader. This will improve the followers trust, respect and confidence towards the leader and it will be easy to implement change in organization hence the organization will achieve its goals.

The leader should also table challenges before the followers so as to be able to look for a solution and improve decision making in the organization (Antonakis,Cianciolo,&Sternberg,2004).The transformational leader should respect his followers and also respect their decisions and any other contribution. This will help a lot in bringing change because the followers will feel part and parcel of the organization thus they will accept change easily and the leader will also win their trust and loyalty. The followers will also be committed in doing their duties thus improving the performance of the organization by encouraging high production.  The followers should have a will and ambition so as to enhance self development and the development of the organization (Antonakis, Cianciolo, &Sternberg, 2004).

The transformational leader should provide feedback regularly and also he should connect the needs of the employees with the mission of the organization. Another characteristic that is contained in Bass full range model is the intellectual arousal. This is the extend into which a transformational leader is able to handle challenges, take threats and to handle ideas from followers. This trait enables the leaders to arouse and encourage their followers. This is because the leader encourages the followers to be creative by developing followers who are able to think independently thus being able to solve problems alone (Ciulla, 2004). This leader should take challenges as an opportunity to learn so as to be able to gain courage. The creativity the followers have is important as they are able to think hard about the task at hand and find better ways of tackling the tasks thus improving their production and this leads to high production in the organization.

The followers will also be able to accept change easily as they will not see it as a challenge hence the leader will be able to bring change to the organization easily. The transformational leader should motivate the followers to change the old ways of doing their jobs and establish better ways (Hacker, &Roberts, 2003). The leader should also encourage the followers to change their beliefs and value thus being able to achieve the objectives set. The development of transformational leadership in most organization and companies has been as a result of two factors. The economic change that happened after the Second World War has affected most of the businesses forcing them to look for new ways of carrying out businesses. The technological change, competition and prices have created instability in most of the companies and organizations thus this has led to use of transformational leadership in most of the organizations to bring change. These organizations have adopted new management structure to bring change and also have stopped employing employees for long contracts so as to win their loyalty. This has led to use of transformational leadership in this organizations to earn the employees loyalty hence producing more (Hacker, &Roberts, 2003).

The development of transformational leadership has also been as a result of other leadership styles that were used in most of the organization. This leadership styles are based on behavior, traits and conditions but they have failed to include leadership qualities. The failure has led to the development of transformational leadership. The elements of transformational leadership have differed from one researcher to another. Some of the researchers have identified six elements of transformational leadership while others have identified four elements of transformational leadership. But according to Bass study the four elements of transformational leadership contained in his full range model are the most common and acceptable elements in transformational leadership (Hacker, &Roberts, 2003).



The aim of transformational leadership is to bring change to the followers and the whole organization in an honest way. The transformational leaders should change their followers intellectually, change their vision and mission and their level of understanding. Transformational leadership helps the organization and its workers to change their purposes, behavior so as to enable the organization to be transformed and to achieve the goals set. This leadership style also changes the beliefs and values of an organization and the workers thus bringing a positive and permanent change. The history of transformational leadership is the work of several researchers such as Burns, Bass, Downton and Avolio. These researchers have had different views on the history of transformational leadership and how it can bring change into the organization.

For Bass he does not agree with the concept of Burns about transformational leadership. This is because he thinks that transformational and transactional leadership characteristics are shown by leaders thus transformational leadership strengthens transactional leadership in an organization by bringing change. Bass has developed the elements of transformational leadership in his model called full range model. The elements include charisma, intellectual arousal, individualized consideration and inspirational motivation. This four elements form the characteristics of a transformational leader and they are important in transformational leadership as they help the transformational leader to relate with his followers instead of using rewards. This is because leaders use these characteristics to motivate their followers, encourage them to be creative and also attend to the needs of the followers. The followers on the other hand respect their leaders, trust them and are proud of them.


Antonakis, J., Cianciolo, A., &Sternberg, R. (2004).The nature of leadership. SAGE, page 172

Bass, B., &Riggio, R. (2006).Transformational leadership.Edition2.Routledge, page 143

Ciulla, J. (2004).Ethics, the heart of leadership.Edition2.Greenwood Publishing Group, page 180

Hacker, S., &Roberts, T. (2003).Transformational leadership: creating organizations of meaning. American Society for Qualit, page 88

Pearce, C., and Conger, J. (2003) .Shared leadership: reframing the hows and whys of leadership. SAGE, page 197


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