Transformational leadership – Successful leadership through change

Transformational leadership theories are based on the idea of creating a collaborative greater good. These leadership skills are qualities that are needed in successful change management. The effect of these qualities on people undergoing significant organisational change can be summarised as:

  1. Building an awareness of the value and importance of tasks
  2. Focusing their minds on group objectives rather than just personal interests
  3. Appealing to and activating their aspirational needs

Integrity and consistency

Of all the leadership theories, Transformational Leadership is particularly relevant to successful change management – especially in situations of major change. This leadership style is often seen in wartime political and military leaders.

It requires absolute integrity and personal behaviour that is resonant with and totally consistent with an organisation’s message and vision.

Raising consciousness

“Transformational leadership is about consciousness-raising on a wide spectrum” – Harvard professor James Burns Macgregor.

In practical terms, this is all about encouraging people to become conscious and aware of what they feel, to feel it strongly and to do so in a context where their values have been defined in such a way that they can be motivated and encouraged to take constructive action.

Helping the transitions

For this to be possible, the leader needs to take into account the impact of change on their people and especially the transitions that they have to move through if the change is to be successful.

Business guru William Bridges focuses on transitions and the psychological changes that lie behind a significant organisational change. He maintains that the situational changes are not as difficult for companies to make as the psychological transitions that are experienced by the people impacted by the change.

These emotional and psychological stages of transition are very well illustrated in the roller coaster of change, and which maps the emotional journey that people experience as they move from denial to acceptance.

Winning trust

The Transformational approach also depends on winning the trust of people. This is facilitated by the unconscious assumption that, by following the leader, the people too will be changed, uplifted or enhanced in some way.


Overall, at times of major organisational change, people feel anxious, insecure and demotivated. Another function of transformational leadership is to supply an infusion of inspiration and positive energy. This is even more necessary during the current economic climate.