AASA & Transformational Leadership – What is It About?

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AASA & Transformational Leadership – What is It About?

By: Dr. Dana T. Bedden


dana bedden headshotHave you ever been part of a group where someone provides a clear vision of the goals and make everyone feel enthusiastic and energized? Then you were in luck because you worked with a transformational leader.

Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to facilitate workshops with colleagues on behalf of AASA related to transformational leadership. Within the two groups, the West Virginia New/Aspiring Superintendents Academy and AASA/Howard University Urban Superintendents Academy are current and future leaders engaged in critical thinking to improve not only their skills but the future of education for our students and problem solving to develop a stronger pipeline of new school leaders. One significant benefit for me serving as a facilitator is the exchange of knowledge - not only what I am able to share, but also what I receive from the community of professionals participating in the academies. As part of the learning process, I begin to reflect on my own leadership style and understanding of transformational leadership. Because of this experience, I decided to not only review the information we are using as part of the workshops, but also other sources of information to continue to grow my own leadership capacity. Education Reimagined provides a publication entitled, A Transformational Vision for Education in the U.S. As part of the introduction of who the organization is and what they believe, the following is stated:

"SIMPLY PUT, the current system was designed in a different era and structured for a different society. Our economy, society, and polity are increasingly at risk from an educational system that does not consistently prepare all children to succeed as adults and is least effective for the children facing the greatest social and economic challenges."

Transformational leadership is a type of leadership that inspires positive changes to those who follow. Transformational leaders are enthusiastic, passionate, and energetic. They are not just concerned about completing the task but also focused on helping all members of the group to become successful.

What is Transformational Leadership?

James MacGregor Burns is often credited with introducing the concept of transformational leadership. He was a presidential biographer and leadership expert. According to him, you can see transformational leadership at work when followers and leaders help each other to achieve higher levels of motivation and morale.

Transformational leaders can inspire their followers to change perceptions, motivations, and expectations to achieve common goals. They earn the respect, admiration, and trust from their followers.

Elements of Transformational Leadership

Let’s consider four elements of transitional leadership. These are intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, individualized consideration, and idealized influence.

Intellectual Stimulation – Transformational leaders encourage followers to be more creative and think outside the box. The leader allows followers to find innovative ways of doing tasks, and explore new avenues of learning.

Inspirational Motivation – Transformational leaders have a clear vision of how to achieve a goal, and can express it to their followers in an articulate manner. They try their best to help their followers get the same motivation and passion to achieve the goals of the group.

Individualized Consideration – Leaders provide personalized encouragement and support to individual members of the team. They will keep communication lines open so that team members can share ideas to them. In doing so, transformational leaders provide direct recognition of the individual contributions of each member.

Idealized Influence – Lastly, transformational leaders serve as the role model of their team members. Members will try to copy the example of their leader because they truly respect and trust the person.

Positive Effects of Transformational Leadership

Studies have shown that transformational leadership has a positive effect on the team. When led by a transformational leader, the group achieves higher levels of satisfaction and performance compared to one with another leadership type.

Transformational leaders believe in their members and know they can perform their best in any given task. In turn, members of the group feel empowered and inspired. To become a transformational leader, you need to be optimistic and have a strong vision of the future. You should believe in that vision, and inspire others to do the same.

Some of the traits of a transformational leader include but are not limited to being supportive, trustworthy, passionate, and genuine. These characteristics can motivate members of the team to support your goals because members know their leader has the best interests of the group in mind all the time.

Transformational leadership is an effective type of leadership. However, there are instances where it might not be the right choice. There are cases in which an autocratic or managerial style can provide better direction, especially if some of the followers require more supervision. What separates a great leader from a good one is that the former knows the type of leadership style required by certain situations.