How to Become a Transformational Business Leader

What does it take to launch a successful business career? Explore how to become a transformational leader and the benefits of getting a business education.
Two students in St. Kate's MAOL program working together

Developing technology, shifting politics, and even public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic can strongly influence how industries operate. The result is an ever-changing business landscape that calls for leaders able to identify innovative ways to adapt. That’s why today’s organizations, for-profit and nonprofit alike, need leaders prepared to embrace change.

To overcome emerging obstacles in their industries, professionals should first understand how to become a transformational business leader.

What Is Transformational Leadership?

Transformational leadership encourages employees to create fundamental changes that help a company grow. Leaders who adopt this practice recognize that an organization’s growth depends on its ability to embrace change. As such, they work to build corporate cultures that give workers independence and room to be imaginative. They also motivate employees to explore creative solutions and take ownership of decision-making in their areas of expertise.

In transformational leadership, leaders and their teams elevate each other’s morality and enthusiasm. Instead of giving orders and expecting others to follow, transformational leaders win people over by helping them feel impassioned about their work. This is in part accomplished by cultivating work environments characterized by:

  • Regular support and recognition
  • Goal setting
  • Positivity
  • Integrity and fairness
  • Inspiration to achieve goals

The Benefits of Transformational Leadership in Businesses and Nonprofits

Transformational leadership benefits businesses and nonprofits alike. Consider the following ways this leadership approach can make an organization a better place to work while strengthening its reputation and competitiveness:

Improving Employee Retention

Transformational leaders project a meaningful vision that inspires workers to follow them out of respect and admiration. Workers who are intrinsically motivated often perform better, which can result in higher productivity. Transformational leadership also increases employee engagement, meaning workers feel a greater sense of inclusion and purpose, as well as commitment to company goals. This often strengthens relationships within an organization and reduces turnover.

Nurturing Adaptability

For companies to develop, they need to adapt to shifting environments and circumstances. However, implementing change isn’t always easy. Workers often resist the unknown, but when they belong to an organizational culture rooted in transformational values, they tend to feel less suspicious of letting go of old ways and exploring new possibilities.

Encouraging Ethical Behavior

Transformational leadership requires transparency so that leaders earn the trust needed to implement organizational change. Keeping internal communication open and transparent makes organizations more ethical and values-driven.  

Supporting Creativity

Transformational leaders grant workers more freedom than leaders who enforce more rigid chains of command. They also recognize workers for their talents and trust them to work independently. This combination of trust and recognition creates environments especially conducive to creativity.

Characteristics of Transformational Leaders

Those interested in learning how to become a transformational leader in business should familiarize themselves with the traits that define these professionals. In addition to demonstrating mutual respect and integrity, transformational leaders also intellectually stimulate those under their charge and motivate them by example. Transformational leaders also tend to be:

Big-Picture Thinkers

Transformational leaders envision the big picture. They don’t allow themselves to bog down in small details and the micromanagement of others. Instead, they remain focused on their organizations’ larger missions and goals.

Authentic Communicators

Communication plays a significant role in inspiring people to act. Transformational leaders have a knack for expressing themselves in genuine and compassionate ways. They recognize that valuable ideas can come from anywhere, so they tend to listen thoughtfully to others. This gives them great credibility and fosters cooperation.

Persuasive Change-Makers

Transformational leaders effectively persuade others, inspiring them to embrace change. By focusing on clearly defined goals when engaging with others, transformational leaders carefully consider their audience, the conflict or goal they need to address, and the best strategy for addressing it. Simultaneously, transformational leaders are open to the idea of reconfiguring their own opinions.


Enthusiastic people tend to perform better and achieve more. Transformational leaders have a talent for sparking interest and excitement. One way they motivate others is by encouraging them to share their ideas and actively participate in conversations. When people feel their input is valued, they tend to feel more ownership of the work they do and, as a result, more enthusiastic and motivated.

Tips on How to Become a Transformational Leader

Leaders who want to adopt a transformational leadership style should keep the following tips in mind:

Build Your Influence Through Positive Actions

Transformational leaders inspire others to take action by first gaining a positive influence over those they lead. This process involves:

  • Modeling the behavior you want to see
  • Championing people’s successes
  • Giving thoughtful praise and constructive feedback
  • Showing genuine appreciation

Communicate a Vision That Others Find Meaningful

Transformational leaders inspire others by presenting a vision that brings greater purpose and meaning to their work. This vision must align with organizational goals, but it should also consider people’s personal and professional goals. As such, when setting and communicating a vision, first learn about people’s concerns, values, and what they hope to accomplish.  

Commit to Mentoring and Coaching

Transformational leaders inspire others by first earning their trust and admiration. Coaching and mentoring others can do both. These practices show people that a leader sees what they have to offer and is willing to invest in them personally. The most effective methods of mentoring and coaching involve:

  • Frequent communication and clear goal setting
  • Constructive criticism
  • Positive recognition

Use Intellectual Stimulation as a Tool

Transformational leaders challenge others to grow and develop by keeping them intellectually stimulated. This is critical to building an organization capable of innovation. Ways to create an intellectually stimulating environment that inspires people and fosters creative thinking and problem-solving include:

  • Experimenting with new ideas and approaches
  • Regularly questioning the current ways of doing things and if more effective methods exist
  • Creating learning opportunities both in and outside of people’s practice areas

Launch a Successful Career by Earning a Business Degree