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You can become a transformational leader

Employing transformational leadership

There’s no denying it: The concept of transformational leadership has become hot. Hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons praised New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for being a transformational leader in a Huffington Post blog. So what exactly is this trendy way of motivating others?

“A transformational leader is much more engaged in the lives of the people he or she is leading than traditional leaders [are],” says Jim Chambers, EdD, who teaches leadership courses at University of Phoenix.

It’s not a new idea: Presidential biographer James MacGregor Burns is credited with originally introducing the concept of transformational leadership in 1978. According to Burns, a transformational leader compels others toward a common goal.

“Transformational leaders inspire and empower us to fulfill visions beyond what we would normally achieve on our own,” according to Chambers, founder and CEO of the Institute for Organizational Leadership, which teaches leadership in universities, corporations and the military.

Here are four ways to become this type of leader:

Get to know one.

Transformational leaders “see the big picture, cast a compelling vision and then lead in a way that inspires others to achieve it,” Chambers explains. If you find someone like this, align yourself with that person and build a relationship.

Develop listening skills.

An influential executive uses good listening skills when motivating others or dealing with complex problems, Chambers says.

He uses the example of employee retention: Conventional leaders might suggest higher salaries or more benefits to keep employees, but a transformational leader takes time to listen to determine the real issue. Maybe all the employee wants is more input on how the job is done, so taking the time to listen solves the problem with little or no additional cost.

Be a good follower.

Inspiring motivators believe that, in order to lead effectively, they also need to follow. They don’t feel compelled to do everything that others advise, but they’re open to new ideas regardless of the source. Being this type of leader, Chambers advises, is being willing to follow when necessary in order to achieve the best results for everyone involved.

“Transformational leaders and followers help each other advance to a higher level of morale and motivation because everyone is engaged at a much higher level,” he adds.

Choose to give

Choose to give.

It is not uncommon to find transformational leaders serving on boards or committees that have no financial benefit to them or their organizations. They are highly altruistic, Chambers says, and they thrive on opportunities to make a difference in their communities and the world.

If you want to be more transformational in your own leadership, look at the people leading charities or volunteer organizations, especially those giving unselfishly. In this environment, according to Chambers, “you will see transformational leadership at its best.”