Transformational leadership: an overview of the modern leadership style

Motivated and committed employees: important factors that contribute significantly to the success of a company. But only suitable managers can make this a reality. The key word: transformational leadership. We explain everything you need to know about the modern leadership style.

Table of Content

What is transformational leadership?

The key buzzword in transformational leadership is intrinsic motivation. In this leadership style, managers are role models, motivators and companions. They want to promote the self-confidence and loyalty of employees – and thus motivate them intrinsically.

The central factors of this leadership style are

  • Commitment

  • Loyalty

  • Trust

  • Self-determination

The focus is on long-term and overarching goals – for the company and its employees.


Transformational leadership was first mentioned in 1978 in the book "Leadership" by James MacGregor Burns. The American political scientist was significantly influenced by Bernard Morris Brass, who described the advantages of this leadership style in his study "Leadership and performance beyond expectations".

Why does our working world need new leadership styles?

Transformational leadership is intended to replace the classic leader-follower principle (one person gives orders, others carry them out). And for good reason: our increasingly complex world is placing ever greater demands on the corporate world. New decisions have to be made every day – and hardly any manager knows about absolutely every area of the company. What is needed instead are agile teams that make decisions in mutual consultation – as in the transformational leadership style.

The four characteristics of transformational leadership

Transformational leadership has four specific characteristics that it must fulfill in order to have a lasting impact on employee motivation.

  1. Inspiring motivation: High performance expectations for ambitious projects – this is one of the cornerstones of a transformational leadership style. This gives your own work more meaning – and relevance.

  2. Idealized influence: Transformational leaders manage to give meaning to their team’s work – far beyond individual self-interest. The result: employees who identify with the company.

  3. Intellectual stimulation: Transformational leadership encourages team members to constantly question existing thought models and beliefs. This opens up space for new opportunities – and tears down mental walls.

  4. Individual consideration: Mass processing? Not with transformational leadership. Instead, each individual is considered individually – their motivation, skills and emotions. This unleashes previously unseen potential.

Transformational vs. transactional leadership

Traditionally, companies today are still managed exclusively on a transactional basis. This means that performance is exchanged for money and special commitment is rewarded with special payments. The problem with this is that it has long been disproven that people choose a job solely for financial reasons.

But there are other differences between transformational and transactional leadership:


Intention to transform

Emotional (meaning)

Focuses on visions and ideology

Fosters intrinsic motivation

Particularly suitable for creative teams

Beyond the basic tasks

Motivates the whole team


Intention to exchange

Rational (money)

Focuses on tasks, goals and performance

Provides external incentives (bonus payment)

Especially for teams with little freedom

Especially for clearly measurable tasks

Motivates individual employees in particular

What qualities does a transformational leader need to have?

Transformational leaders manage to get the best out of their teams in the long term – they bring about real transformation.

To do this, however, they need to have certain qualities:

  • Role model: transformational leaders lead by example and live the change they want to see.

  • Reliability: Transformational leaders deliver what they promise. The big picture is more important to them than their own advantages.

  • Satisfaction: Transformational leaders pay attention to the satisfaction of their employees and customers.

  • Inspiration : Transformational leaders can motivate and inspire their team with new challenges.

  • Implementation : Transformational team leaders make goals measurable. They take action instead of just planning.

  • Stimulation: Stimulating initiative and finding solutions independently – that’s what transformational leaders can do.

  • Fairness : Transformational leaders always communicate fairly and at eye level. They have no need to play power games at the expense of the corporate culture.

  • Innovation: Transformational leaders act entrepreneurially, are open to new approaches and are not afraid to hand over responsibility.

  • Consideration : Transformational leaders promote the individual strengths and skills of their employees.

The advantages of transformational leadership

Transformational leadership has a number of advantages for your company. Each individual advantage is based on the respective characteristics of a transformational leader.

The principle: Behavior of the manager → Behavior of the employees

Role model function → Loyalty and development

Inspiration → Individual success and new best performances

Implementation Projects get rolling faster

Stimulation Increased productivity, more personal responsibility

Fairness Honest collaboration and open communication

Innovation Opportunities are better utilized, resources are conserved

Consideration Better qualitative and quantitative performance

Either or: transactional and transformational leadership?

So is transformational leadership the only right way? No, probably not. Because there is nothing to be said against combining transformational and transactional styles. In fact, it is only by combining the two leadership styles that their full potential can be realized. Depending on the situation, the focus is then either on one or the other approach. As is so often the case, the same applies here: The truth lies in the middle.

triangility: Your path to transformational leadership

Transformation is learning – we know that. And that’s why we also offer individual and customized workshops, training courses and learning journeys for managers. In this way, you can keep your finger on the pulse even in an ever faster changing world – and unleash the previously unrecognized potential of your entire team.

Discover our numerous workshops now!


New Leadership Training

Core principles, competences and practices for modern leadership.

Dauer: 12 days
Classroom / Online

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