Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership transforms people—both leaders and supporters—as well as organizations for breakthrough results.  Discover the key principles and how to apply them in your life.

What Is Transformational Leadership?

Transformational leadership improves the performance, morale, motivation, and dedication of both leaders and their teams or supporters.

Successful transformational leadership:

  • makes an incredibly strong case for why change should happen,
  • promotes a common vision,
  • leads change in an organized manner,
  • successfully integrates the change.

Transformational leaders are inspirational, trustworthy, and charismatic role models who lead by example. They understand the strengths and weaknesses of their team and align them with tasks and goals to optimize performance. They engage their team in a way that moves them to also become leaders.

Transformational leaders foster high levels of personal commitment from their supporters or team to shared goals, whether those goals are for an organization or a movement. Goals are set with high standards in mind, and transformational leadership has been shown to often exceed more typical achievements.

The “Four I’s” of Transformational Leadership

The key elements of transformational leadership, known as the “4 I’s,” are as follows:

Idealized Influence

  • Being a charismatic role model who builds confidence and trust

Inspirational Motivation

  • Providing meaningful work and setting high standards

Intellectual Stimulation

  • Encouraging creativity by questioning common assumptions and beliefs

Individual Consideration

  • Being a mentor by responding to individual needs
Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech exemplifies the inspirational and charismatic elements of a transformational leader. Image courtesy of

Key Names in  Modern Transformational Leadership

In 1973, the earliest writing on transformational leadership appeared, when  J.V. Downton distinguished transformational leadership from transactional leadership.  At the time, however, his work received little recognition.

James MacGregor Burns

James MacGregor Burns popularized the concept of transformational leadership in 1978 through his study of political leadership.

Burns described transformational leadership as a process where “leaders and followers help each other to advance to a higher level of morale and motivation.”

Burns explained transformational and transactional leadership as mutually exclusive of each other, for transformational leadership shifts values and views of individuals in a positive manner, while transactional leadership is simply based on give and take.

Bernard M. Bass

In 1985, Bernard M. Bass extended Burns’ theory of transformational leadership. Bass differed from Burns in the fact that he claimed good leaders have characteristics of both transformational and transactional leadership.

He developed the popular Multifactor Leadership Quiz (MLQ) to determine leadership as transactional or transformational, and the quiz is one of the primary methods to quantify leadership.

Bass furthered Burns’ work by pointing out that leaders must use their influence and charisma to provide followers with inspiration through a vision or mission, which will give them a strong sense of identity.

According to Bass, leaders should also encourage followers to challenge the status quo. Above all, leaders are trustworthy and encourage loyalty through their character and actions.

Steve Jobs highly encouraged innovation and creativity among his Apple employees, a key element of intellectual stimulation. Image courtesy of

What Transformational Leadership Is Not

As posited by Burns, transactional leadership can be seen as the counter to transformational leadership.

It is also important to point out that all types of leadership have a dark side when an abuse of power is realized. True transformational leadership must involve efforts to develop supporters into leaders, for leaders who use their charisma and power to create blind followers are not truly transformational.

Mahatma Gandhi demonstrated an incredibly charismatic vision and acted in a way that inspired others, a key element of idealized influence. Image courtesy of

Build Your Transformational Leadership

At The Pachamama Alliance, we wholeheartedly believe that everyone has the potential to be a transformational leader, and should unlock it.

Our workshops and trainings are designed to bring out the transformational leader within you.  It is quite common for individuals to experience the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium as an articulation of the feelings, values, and dreams they already have, motivating them to step into leadership and deliver the Symposium themselves as a trained Facilitator.

In addition, you’ll also come away with a foundation for your transformational leadership:

  • Clarification of your own values and vision
  • The ability to inspire others with your story
  • The power to offer people a new way of looking at things
  • The vision to see challenges as opportunities
  • A strong sense of your creative power to be a change agent

As you begin to deliver Pachamama workshops, you’ll inspire others to become transformational leaders by setting a positive example, and helping them clarify their own values, vision, and purpose. You will experience yourself as a powerful change agent creating a just, thriving, sustainable world.

Oprah uses individualized consideration to respond to the personal needs of her fans and supporters. Image courtesy of


More Resources