The Theory of Transformational Leadership: Examples and Weaknesses

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The Theory of Transformational Leadership: Examples and Weaknesses

Transformational leadership is a model of leadership that encourages a team to achieve overall success. It aims to raise a team’s morale and self-confidence, aligning them towards a common vision or purpose. This leadership style is used to inspire team members to work together as a single unit rather than many individual parts

Transformational leaders help followers grow and develop into leaders by responding to individual followers’ needs by empowering them and aligning the objectives and goals of the individual followers, the leader, the group, and the larger organisation

Four key behaviours characterise transformational leaders:

  • Idealised Influence (II): Transformational leaders serve as ideal role models for followers, embodying the qualities they want in their team. They are admired for their actions and are seen as a model to emulate
  • Inspirational Motivation (IM): Transformational leaders can inspire and motivate followers through having and presenting that vision. They encourage followers to work towards common goals.
  • Intellectual Stimulation (IS): Transformational leaders challenge followers to be innovative and creative, encouraging them to challenge the status quo. They constantly challenge followers to higher levels of performance.
  • Individualised Consideration (IC): Transformational leaders demonstrate genuine concern for the needs and feelings of followers and help them self-actualize. This personal attention to each follower assists in developing trust among the organisation’s members and their authority figure(s). 
  • Transformational leaders inspire their members to achieve beyond their presumed potential. The effects of transformational leadership have a lasting and positive impact, leading to higher levels of performance, high satisfaction, decreased burnout, social loafing, and increased individual motivation.

Transformational leadership characteristics

Transformational leadership is a leadership style that focuses on inspiring and empowering others to achieve change. Several key traits and behaviours characterise it:

  • Openness to New Thinking: Transformational leaders are open to innovation and constantly look for opportunities to do things differently. They are always available to new ideas, regardless of how they present themselves.
  • Talent for Broadening Minds: Transformational leaders often involve shifting people’s views on how things should work. They understand the rationale behind people’s mindsets and how to turn their thinking. This requires empathy and the ability to inspire confidence.
  • Commitment to Active Listening: Transformational leaders hear ideas with an open mind and respond without judgment or finality. They commit to employing active listening techniques so that their team members feel seen, understood, and respected.
  • Ability to Inspire Participation: Transformational leaders expect creativity from everyone—not just one or two “idea people.” They model universal creativity and innovation, creating a culture where everyone is an idea person.
  • Understanding What Needs to Change: Transformational leaders can take an audience and significantly change their opinions of a particular topic. They have clearly defined goals and know how to address conflicts or impasses.
  • Talent for Genuine Communication: Transformational leaders know how to communicate ideas from everywhere, with neither judgment nor knee-jerk reaction. They make their colleagues feel genuinely listened to.
  • Self-awareness: Transformational leaders are reflective; they develop a deep understanding of who they are. They are able to see how the needs of the larger group can both coincide with and change their personal goals.
  • Authenticity: Transformational leaders bring authentic presence to their work. They are courageously imperfect, embrace their true selves, and regularly exhibit integrity, vision, and compassion in a way that awakens and inspires others.
  • The Ability to Collaborate: Transformational leaders regularly enlist the engagement of those they lead. They convene meaningful conversations that include diverse stakeholders, then use the fruits of these discussions to address complex problems that they cannot solve on their own
  • An Understanding of Interdependence: Transformational Leaders learn how to develop, empower, and mobilise networks. These networks allow for the emergence of movements, which often lead to social, cultural, and systemic change
  • Humility: Transformational leaders have a sense of humility. They are constantly learning and listening to others. They do not get too comfortable. Knowing they do not have all the answers enables them to be more flexible so they can cope and even thrive in an era of rapid change. 

4 Advantages of Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is a leadership style that relies on the encouragement of a team to realise overall success. This leadership style is associated with positive change in individuals and organisations, and it can take a struggling or stagnant team and completely transform it into a productive and dynamic group of individuals. Here are four key advantages of transformational leadership:

1. *Psychological Safety**: Transformational leadership emphasises teamwork and praises risk-taking and learning from mistakes, creating a culture where employees feel safer sharing victories and mistakes. This psychological safety can boost creativity and reduce stress in the workplace

2. Increased Creativity: Transformational leaders promote curiosity and out-of-the-box thinking. They encourage learning opportunities like training or seminars to help the people around them keep learning and challenging their assumptions. This can lead to increased creativity in the workplace.

3. Reduced Interpersonal Stress: Transformational leaders emphasise communication between employees, regardless of status or job title. This helps create a sense of cooperation rather than competition, reducing interpersonal stress in the workplace

4. Higher Achievement: Transformational leaders motivate and empower others to push past self-imposed limits. They can inspire others to fulfil their roles and create the feeling that their goals are achievable. This can lead to higher achievement in the workplace. 

Weaknesses of Transformational Leadership 

Transformational leadership, while effective in many situations, does have its disadvantages. Here are ten key disadvantages of transformational leadership:

Influence Can Backfire

Transformational leaders can be great motivators, but their influence can backfire if they are self-serving or make poor decisions. This can lead to negative impacts on the organisation and its members.

Challenges in Details

Transformational leaders often focus on the big picture and may overlook important details. This can lead to issues in the long run if there are no people to handle the details.

Poor Attention to Detail

Transformational leaders often focus on the big picture. They may need to pay more attention to the details, which can be problematic in a fast-paced and detail-oriented business environment.

Risky Enthusiasm

Transformational leaders can sometimes take risks without considering the potential consequences, leading to potential failures.

Employee Burnout

Transformational leadership can be stressful and exhausting, leading to employee burnout. The pressure to perform well can be overwhelming, especially during periods of change.

Unidirectional Benefits

Transformational leadership can lead to unidirectional benefits, where the organisation benefits while employees sacrifice. This can lead to resentment and dissatisfaction among employees.

The Size Is Excessive

It is one thing to garner support for the overarching goal and an entirely different matter to put that goal into action with well-defined operational plans. A significant area for improvement of transformational leadership is that it needs more task concentration, which is necessary for some people to be guided while they do their jobs. It is also very conceptual. Although transformational leaders would rather not get their hands dirty, operational planning is essential for any business to realise its goal.

Might Be Dangerous and Inconvenient

Overly, frequent changes become disruptive, and leaders take unwarranted risks, which is bad for the organisation. It is common practice for businesses to seek out transformational leaders to institute structural changes. However, problems arise when a transformational leader views change as the ultimate goal rather than focusing on how it might benefit the organisation.

Negative results are more likely to occur if the leader does not objectively determine if this change is the right reaction for this organisation and this period.

Needs an Ongoing Feedback System

Conversely, communication is only effective once there’s constant dialogue. Maintaining high levels of enthusiasm is crucial for transformational leaders, and doing so requires consistent effort, frequent meetings, and feedback. There is a danger that an employee may lose dedication to the vision when there is a communication breakdown, and he feels uninvolved.

High Employee Dependency

Transformational leaders are often charismatic and inspiring, leading to a high level of dependency among their followers. Employees may attach their value to the leader’s opinion, which can create an unhealthy and unproductive dependency. If the leader is not able to provide frequent and sufficient recognition, employees may feel they are doing something wrong, leading to decreased morale, productivity, and innovation.

Lack of Patience

Transformational leaders can sometimes lack patience, especially when others do not fall in line quickly enough with the proposed changes. This can lead to frustration and resistance from employees who are used to old procedures and policies.

Cross-cultural Limitations

Transformational leaders can face challenges in certain cultures where being at the top is not a significant factor. In such cultures, speaking up or making suggestions can be seen as disrespectful, making it difficult for a transformational leader to be successful.

Risk of Undermining Innovation

Transformational leaders, while great at inspiring others to venture into new realms of business, can sometimes undermine the in-house development of new products and services. Their enthusiasm to move forward can sometimes disrupt the natural flow of project development and impede its success.

Organization Dependency

Transformational leaders can create a strong dependency among their followers. If the leader is no longer present to provide guidance and motivation, it can leave a significant void in the organisation that no one else can fill.

Limitations in Applications

Transformational leadership is not universally applicable. It may not be effective in new and chaotic groups or organisations, those that perform mechanised tasks, and in emergencies or situations that require quick decision-making or prompt problem-solving.

Potential for Manipulation and Exploitation

There is a potential for abuse of power, manipulation, and exploitation in transformational leadership. It can also create unrealistic expectations, dependency, and conformity.

Negatively Impacts Individual Creativity

While transformational leaders facilitate group creativity and innovativeness, they can negatively affect individual creativity due to dependence.

Exhausting Enthusiasm

Maintaining the heightened level of enthusiasm that characterizes transformational leadership can be draining for both the leader and their followers.

Visionaries Can Be Delusional

Transformational leaders can sometimes lose sight of what’s important, leading to blind spots. They can also run the risk of developing narcissism.

Relying on Employees Can Backfire

Transformational leadership often relies on the leader’s presence and support. If the leader is absent or fails to provide guidance, followers may struggle to sustain their motivation and productivity.

Transformational Leadership Can Be Disruptive

Transformational leadership can be destabilizing and disruptive, particularly in environments that are resistant to change


Transformational leadership is an effective leadership style that can bring numerous benefits to a team or organization. It can foster responsibility, loyalty, and engagement among team members, as well as facilitate change and create new visions. However, leaders must be aware that not all team members may respond favorably to this style and adjustments may be needed. Additionally, there is a risk of employee burnout if sustained high levels of productivity are required. Despite these potential disadvantages, the benefits of transformational leadership should not be overlooked, and leaders should take steps to mitigate any potential pitfalls.


What are the 4 elements of transformational leadership?

Transformational leadership is a style that inspires positive changes in employees and the organization. It is characterized by idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration. These elements work together to create a culture of innovation and positive change, fostering a sense of importance and stake in the organization’s success.

What is the theoretical framework of transformational leadership?

Transformational leadership is a leadership style that inspires and motivates a team to achieve a common goal. It is characterized by charisma, inspiration, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration. This approach can transform a struggling team into a productive, dynamic group, leading to higher performance and satisfaction levels. It fosters trust, respect, and admiration among team members.

Are transformational leaders good or bad?

Transformational leadership is a system where leaders inspire team members to change their perceptions and expectations towards a common goal. It has advantages such as lower turnover costs, increased productivity, and continuous communication. However, it can also lead to negative outcomes, employee burnout, and focus on individual needs.


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