Characteristics of a Transformational Leader

Characteristics of a Transformational Leader

A transformational leader is an individual in a leadership position who employs leadership strategies and specific mechanisms aimed at building and maintaining positive and productive relationships, increasing the motivation and morale of the entire team or group, and improving the individual performance and capabilities of his or her people.

But what exactly separates a transformational leader from other leaders who use other leadership styles? What are his or her characteristics and qualities that define his or her leadership style, as well as his or her motivation behind leading people and a group or an entire organization? What are the skills and competencies needed to be one?

The Characteristics of a Transformational Leader

Transformational leadership is one fo the theories of leadership with notable advantages over transactional leadership. Hence, compared with a transactional leader, a transformational leader recognizes the importance of relationships and focuses on motivating and inspiring, empowering his or her people, promoting positive change, and upholding intellectual stimulation. Note that this leadership also has applications on specific situations or scenarios. The following are the specific characteristics of a transformational leader:

1. Relationship Builder

One of the defining aspects of transformational leadership is that it involves building and maintaining positive and healthy relationships between the leader and his or her people, and across the entire group or organization.

As a relationship builder, this leader has the capability to relate to his or her people, regardless of how diverse they are. He or she can empathize with their individual needs and struggles. Furthermore, this leader is also relatable and charismatic.

Building and maintaining relationship also means having the capacity to resolve existing conflicts and prevent one from transpiring between him or her and his or her people, as well as across his or her entire group or organization.

2. Open Communicator

Another characteristic of a transformational leader is that he or she practices and promotes feedback-centric communication. Of course, to build and maintain relationships, this individual must the capability to effectively and efficiently communicate.

Note that an open communicator is also an active listener. He or she listens attentively to his or her people, understands what they are saying, responds and reflects on what is being said, and retains what has been said while providing feedback.

A feedback-centric communication also involves openness to receiving feedback. The communication process is two-way. The leader respects and values the opinions and ideas of others by providing them with a suitable communication platform.

3. Influential Visionary

A leader sets the goals and objectives of his or her group or an entire organization. However, regardless of the leadership and management styles they follow, leaders should always set goals and objectives that are attainable and feasible.

Researchers B. Stienmann, H. J. P. Klug, and G. W. Maier concluded that a leader who follows a transformational style of leadership should also be able to communicate to his or her people that the goals and objectives he or she has set are not only important but also attainable.

Further conclusions explained that the capacity to communicate important and attainable goals and objectives allows this leader to exert his or her impact on the job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and proactive behavior of his or her people.

4. People-Centric

A people-centric leader is someone who thinks about how his or her people want to work and what inspires them to do the work and contribute to meeting the collective goals and objectives of the group or an entire organization.

Results from the study of H. Khan et al. showed that a leader inspires his or her people to achieve anticipated or significant outcomes by being well informed about them, particularly by understanding and responding to their individual needs and issues.

In addition, another study by F. Y. Lai et al revealed that transformational leadership is about engaging the people, and individuals who are engaged by their leaders are more likely to immerse themselves in work and perform better at their assigned tasks.

5. Natural Collaborative

Another notable characteristic of a transformational leader is that he or she is not linear who sets goals and objectives and hand over tasks and other assignments without consultation. This leader believes in the importance of collaboration and practices intellectual humility.

More specifically, as a naturally collaborative person, this leader encourages his or her people to participate in problem-solving and in the development of goals and objectives. He or she essentially inspires everyone to become team players rather than followers.

An individual who believes in the benefits of collaboration has the ability to inspire everyone to participate. Doing so means building and maintaining a culture characterized by open communication in which everyone becomes an idea person.


  • Khan, H., Rehmat, M., Butt, T. H., Farooqi, S. and Asim, J. 2020. “Impact of Transformational Leadership on Work Performance, Burnout, and Social Loafing: A Mediation Model.” Future Business Journal. 6(40). DOI: 1186/s43093-020-00043-8
  • Lai, F. Y., Tang, H. C., Lu, S. C., Lee, Y. C., and Lin, C. C. 2020. “Transformational Leadership and Job Performance: The Mediating Role of Work Engagement.” SAGE Open. 10(1). DOI: 1177/2158244019899085
  • Stienmann, B., Klug, H. J. P., and Maier, G. W. 2018. “The Path Is the Goal: How Transformational Leaders Enhance Followers’ Job Attitudes and Proactive Behavior.” Frontiers in Psychology. 9: 2338. DOI: 3389/fpsyg.2018.02338
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