Transformational Leadership Traits: Practice What you Preach!

Transformational Leaders Model What They Preach

This trait is listed last, however, setting the example is key to the success of the other traits. This is similar to the dynamic with my four leadership principles (Foundations, Relationships, Systems, Balance). The last one (Balance) empowers the other three principles. Without balance, the other principles are less effective and might not be effective at all.

If you have children, then you are aware that your behavior, conduct, and language influence theirs – negatively and positively.

In 1978, J. M. Burns introduced his theory of Transformational Leadership in his book, Transformational Leadership. He identified the importance of the leader’s modeling as a process where, “one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality” (1978, p. 20). Therefore, Burns has identified the importance of the ethical and moral integrity of the leader, which influences the integrity of the organization.

In 1985, B. M. Bass expanded on this principle in his book, Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations. He expands the Transformational Leadership theory to explain how followers develop trust and respect, and are therefore inspired to function at a higher level than otherwise expected.

The guiding principle for the Transformational Leader is to impact group process and higher functioning, not by power of position, but with personal influence and personal integrity. See my posts on Mental Discipline and Fitness.

Transformational Leaders raise the level of performance by their functioning in the following ways:

  • Behavior: Always act in ways that honor the core values and guiding principles of the organization. You defined these principles. The values must be such a part of who you are that you cannot violate even one value. Core values are the foundation for the organization you lead. Guiding principles define how you will apply the core values when making decisions. Integrity is acting in ways that are true to the core values – especially when nobody is watching. If the leader is not acting in integrity, then why should anyone else do it?
  • Function: Showing up on time and prepared is setting the example for a high- performance team. Others will do what you do, regardless of what you say. Set the bar high and inspire yourself. Others will follow.
  • Attitude: The old joke is to be sincere, whether you mean it or not. Be very aware that your attitude is contagious – good or bad. You might be feeling great, and portray anger or anxiety because you are transmitting some feeling other that what you are thinking or feeling. Check your attitude and your appearance. You might be transmitting negative vibes when not aware of it. The Transformational Leader is principally the cheerleader for the vision. Don’t forget to cheer.
  • Language: It’s your game, so you can use whatever language you choose, however, your choice of language defines you. Using profanity is not a sign of professionalism. Choices of words when providing feedback to correct processes or behaviors in team members can be destructive or affirming. Example: when checking on a delegated process, you can ask in different ways – “Did you get it done?” or “Did you get a chance to complete the task?” One puts people on the defensive, while the other creates dialogue. Which would you want to hear? Monitor your language. Keep it clean. Keep it clear.
  • Self Control: The ultimate inspiration is the leader who manages self. The first transformation facilitated by the Transformational Leader is self-transformation. Begin the transformation with yourself.

Keep in mind that transformation is not an event. It is a process. Leaders are transforming a vision into reality. Leaders are transforming teams and organizations. Leaders are continually upgrading and transforming their own skills and processes.

Set the standard by what you model.

Please share your biggest challenge and greatest celebration in your own journey of self-discovery and personal growth.


Hugh Ballou
The Transformational Leadership Strategist

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