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Transformational leadership

By Julia Fetherston
Transformational leadership. Christian Healthcare Ministries.

What is transformational leadership? Transformational leadership is a leadership style that focuses on inspiring change and collaboration among your employees. Transformational leadership style focuses on empowering collaboration within your staff, so they have the courage and initiative to make decisions, be innovative, and take pride in what they do.

Leadership is about more than responsibility, guidance, or directing employees. Leadership is another opportunity to let your faith show as you care for, support, and—yes—lead your employees.

Other leadership styles, such as servant leadership or benevolent leadership, have slightly different goals. Servant leadership focuses on serving your employees. Benevolent leadership focuses on creating good for your employees. Each leadership style aims to lead and empower employees well—each focuses on different skills for leadership.

Leadership and transformation

Researcher Bernard Bass created a leadership theory now known as “Bass’ Transformational Leadership Theory.” In this theory, he suggests that there are four effective leadership qualities for transformational leaders:

  • intellectual stimulation
  • individualized consideration
  • inspirational motivation
  • idealized influence

What does that even mean? Let’s break it down.

Intellectual stimulation: be creative

Transformational leaders know they don’t have all the answers. When problems or challenges occur, they trust their employees to be creative and find new solutions.

This is not a blind trust, hoping that something works out in the end. Before a problem or challenge occurs, transformational leaders work with their employees to make sure that:

  • They’re in a role that suits them best.
  • They have the training to be an expert at what they do.
  • They’re confident in their tasks and responsibilities.

During the daily routine of the workplace, transformational leaders build their employees up. When the big challenges come, employees are confident, prepared, and can successfully and creatively come up with solutions.

Individualized consideration: people first

In Matthew 22:37-40 [ESV], as the Pharisees and Sadducees were testing Him, Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

These two commandments are cornerstones of transformational leadership as well.

As Christians, the command is simple: Love God and love His people. As transformational leaders, it’s also simple: people first, employees second.

Good leadership get to know the people working underneath them. They care about how their employee is doing at work and outside of work. Their employees know they can take ideas, thoughts, concerns, challenges, and more to their boss without worry or fear.

Inspirational motivation: visionary leaders

In any business or organization, there must be visions or goals. Without having something to work towards, employees—and even leaders—find themselves in a stalemate, struggling to figure out how to move forward.

Transformational leaders know the vision they’re working towards. But more than that, they know how to give the vision to their employees. They don’t just want to lead someone towards a goal—rather, they want their employees to get excited about it and make it their own goal.

An employee who catches sight of the vision will feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for achieving goals and will be more passionate about their job. When the goals are achieved, that employee will feel a sense of accomplishment.

As Christians, the command is simple: Love God and love His people. As transformational leaders, it’s also simple: people first, employees second.

Idealized influence: lead by example

Transformational leaders pass on more than just the vision. They also transform into the change they want to see.

Whether old or young, transformational leaders take this advice Paul gave Timothy seriously: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). They don’t expect their employees to “do as I say and not as I do.” Instead, they live out what they want to see from their employees.

Transformational leadership example

The examples of leaders in the Bible often give us good ideas of what is good and what is not good. Nehemiah is a biblical example of transformational leadership among the Jews.

Nehemiah, a Jew living in Babylon during the Babylonian exile, was an ordinary person. He was a cupbearer, meaning he poured and served the drinks for the king. Following God’s prompting, he requested permission from the king to go back to the destroyed Jerusalem and rebuild the walls.

This was not a simple task. The people of Jerusalem were divided and disorganized. Despite the king’s approval, this project had many enemies actively seeking to foil it. Nehemiah was also leading the people back into a relationship with God.

Here’s where he brought out his transformational leadership.

Nehemiah helped the Israelites see the vision for the rebuilt Jerusalem. As they slowly built the walls and started taking on his vision as their own, he continued supporting them and made sure they all had the resources they needed. He helped mediate fights and brought the people together in unity. When enemies tried to attack, he ensured those working on the walls were protected. Most importantly, Nehemiah lived out the standards he wanted to see in the Israelites. He worked on the wall, followed God’s law, and acted in courage and integrity.

By being the change he wanted to see—by being transformational—Nehemiah did the impossible and rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls.

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Julia Fetherston
Julia is a writer and storyteller with a passion to inspire others to live out the truths of the gospel. Her out-of-the-box thinking provides a unique perspective on biblical truth, and her mission is to relate those truths back to others.