The modern idea of Transformational Leadership is based around 4 elements described by Bernard A. Bass in 1985: Idealised InfluenceIntellectual StimulationIndividualised Consideration and Inspirational Motivation

The modern idea of Transformational Leadership is based around 4 elements described by Bernard A. Bass in 1985: Idealised InfluenceIntellectual StimulationIndividualised Consideration and Inspirational Motivation


What is Transformational Leadership?

Transformational Leadership is a style first described by American historian and political scientist James MacGregor Burns in his 1978 book Leadership, and expanded on during the 1980s by fellow scholar Bernard M. Bass. MacGregor had studied various political leaders, including both Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, and it is during this period he developed his theories, including Transformational and Transactional Leadership.

It is a style which is utilised by leaders possessing specific traits, who look to work alongside their team members to identify change and develop the next action steps. But most importantly, they transform others - developing and empowering their individual followers to become leaders in and of themselves. 

Transformational Leadership was utilised by notable historical figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, and is thus also often associated with the Servant Leadership philosophy. It is also particularly used in Change Management and Strategic Planning to develop and deliver a specific vision for the team or the organisation, or to change the culture of the company. 

More information on Transformational Leadership can be found here


The Four I's

In Bass' interpretation, he identified four separate elements that make up a Transformational Leader, which became known as the 4 I's. These were:


  • Idealised Influence (II)
  • Intellectual Stimulation (IS)
  • Inspirational Motivation (IM)
  • Individualised Consideration (IC)

These 4 elements, in Bass' view, were crucial if a leader wished to inspire, nurture and develop their followers. These would be used to create an open, communicative and diverse culture, allowing followers to freely share ideas and therefore to empower them on an individual level. 

Transformational leaders are often described as mentors and role models as they lead by example, encouraging an environment where innovative thinking is aligned with the values, beliefs and objectives of the organisation, and individuals are openly recognised for their contributions, and for going above-and-beyond the norm expected of them.


Four I's of Transformational Leadership


Idealised Influence (II)

This refers to the way in which Transformational Leaders exert their influence within a group. These leaders are deeply respected by their team due to the example that they set for others. Behind this, they provide a clear vision and a sense of belonging which encourages individuals to buy into the long-term objectives of the organisation, and drives them to achieve their own goals. 

Therefore, these individuals act as powerful role models, and their followers copy or imitate them as they wish to become a leader based around the example set.


Intellectual Stimulation (IS)

Transformational Leaders create a diverse and open environment, within which they encourage others to innovate and to form new ideas for the organisation and themselves. They seek other paths to goals which stray from the norm and openly push others to challenge their own beliefs and values, as well as those of the company. This is why this style of leadership can play such an influential role in Change and Strategic Planning.


Inspirational Motivation (IM)

Transformational Leaders play an important role in improving performance, by working to raise through team morale through motivational techniques and acting as inspiration for their followers. They are happy to communicate their high expectations to individual followers and motivate them on a singular level to gain their commitment to a shared organisational or team belief. When the individual is committed to organisational goals, it intrinsically encourages them to work harder to reach these objectives.

When combined with the Individual Influence that Transformational Leaders exert, Inspirational Motivation helps make up these leaders' charisma.


Individualised Consideration (IC)

Transformational Leaders actively work to create a diverse environment and supportive environment, where individual differences are respected and celebrated. They will know each of their followers individually, and will happily listen to any concerns or needs that their team members may have.

They will act as mentors and coaches for team members, working to develop, empower and inspire them to achieve more, and to be more. This individual effort is key to achieving the best results, and creating future leaders.


Becoming a Transformational Leader

You should now have a good understanding of the behaviours and attributes that Bass considers all true Transformational Leaders to possess. Becoming one is not an overnight phenomenon - individuals have to work to become a leader of high inspiration, and it may be suited to some personalities over others - but here are some steps which one can take to drive themselves towards the next level of leadership:

  1. Identify individual strengths and weaknesses
  2. Develop an inspiring vision for the future
  3. Motivate everyone to buy into the vision
  4. Manage and involve yourself in delivery
  5. Reinforce your relationships with the team: trust, loyalty