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Burns' Transformational Leadership Theory

 

Disciplines > Leadership > Leadership theories > Burns' Transformational Leadership Theory

Assumptions | Description | Discussion | See also

 

Assumptions

Association with a higher moral position is motivating and will result in people following a leader who promotes this.

Working collaboratively is better than working individually.

Description

Burns defined transformational leadership as a process where leaders and followers engage in a mutual process of 'raising one another to higher levels of morality and motivation.'

Transformational leaders raise the bar by appealing to higher ideals and values of followers. In doing so, they may model the values themselves and use charismatic methods to attract people to the values and to the leader.

Burns' view is that transformational leadership is more effective than transactional leadership, where the appeal is to more selfish concerns. An appeal to social values thus encourages people to collaborate, rather than working as individuals (and potentially competitively with one another). He also views transformational leadership as an ongoing process rather than the discrete exchanges of the transactional approach.

Discussion

Using social and spiritual values as a motivational lever is very powerful as they are both hard to deny and also give people an uplifting sense of being connected to a higher purpose, thus playing to the need for a sense of meaning and identity.

Ideals are higher in Maslow's Hierarchy, which does imply that lower concerns such as health and security must be reasonably safe before people will pay serious attention to the higher possibilities.

See also

Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper & Row

Transformational Leadership, Transactional Leadership

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