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Transformational Leadership Approach to Employee Motivation

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nathan Hurwitz

Dr. Nathan Hurwitz is a tenured Associate Professor in Theatre and has three books in print, two textbooks and a coffee table book.

Transformational leaders inspire and motivate people. Explore the transformational leadership approach to employee motivation, learn about the qualities of a transformational leader and how employees respond, and discover ways to enhance leadership ability. Updated: 01/25/2022

Transformational Leadership

Transformation leadership is a management style that seeks to create changes in people and social systems. The goal is to bring out positive changes in those who follow the leader, ultimately helping them to become leaders themselves. Transformational leaders are often visionaries who lead by example. Their primary leadership tools are inspiration, empathy, and rapport. They exude confidence, courage, and the strength of their convictions.

Here are the six essential qualities that define a transformational leader. These leaders have:

  1. A clear sense of vision: They know what they want to achieve, why, and how to communicate this articulately so that the people in their organizations understand what they need to do to achieve this vision.
  2. The ability to inspire: Based on their passionate beliefs, transformational leaders can inspire others to take up their visions.
  3. The strength of their convictions: Transformational leaders follow through on their claims and promises. They go out on a limb for what they believe. While they aren't reckless, they are definitely willing to take on challenges and risks to accomplish their goals.
  4. A personal connection to their people: These leaders tend to know their people at all levels of their organizations. Their empathy and genuine interest is a crucial component in their rapport and charisma.
  5. The ability to set the standard: Transformational leaders set the bar regarding vision, ethics, and standards all by example. They ask those who follow them to adopt the same standards for themselves.
  6. The ability to see things to completion: Follow-through, like mentioned earlier, is a defining quality of a transformational leader. While other leaders make promises, transformational leaders see their promises through to the end.

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Transformational Leader Examples

Take a small list of transformational leaders, and you'll see the aforementioned qualities in action. While there are many examples in the business world, a short list of contemporary transformational leaders include Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson, Bill and Melinda Gates, Lee Iacocca, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Sam Walton, and Oprah Winfrey.

These men and women embody the transformational qualities that not only led to their massive successes, but also inspired those who have worked for them to step into their shoes as the next generation of transformational leaders.


Why is it that those people who have been led by transformational leaders find the same leadership qualities within themselves? Working in the environment created by a transformational leader, employees find themselves empowered by:

  • The strength of their employers' vision.
  • The integrity they have experienced, which introduces them to the idea that they can have the same integrity.
  • The power of inspiration.
  • Their employers' connection and commitment to their people.
  • The power of self-belief.
  • The stimulation of carefully applied intelligence.

Let's take a look at an example of an inspirational transformational leader. Television personality, author, and psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw worked for a trial consulting firm until he became a disciple of Oprah Winfrey. The greatest lesson that McGraw learned from his mentor was her ability to face any group of people and inspire them with the specificity of her personal vision and her integrity. He has said, ''When she's around people, they feel better about themselves than they did before she got there.'' First-hand experience with this kind of achiever is powerful and effective. Ultimately, it makes the observer want to become that kind of person. There have been hundreds of articles written on the power of these leaders to motivate their subordinates.

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