One of the more influential lessons we have encountered this semester has definitely been our most recent one, Lesson 10, which explored transformational leadership. As we read in our textbook, transformational leadership is the “process whereby a person engages with others and creates a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the follower” (Northouse, 2016). Transformational leaders are set apart from other types of leaders because they are the most impactful and successful in achieving goals with their teams. Based on this information, it is clear that transformational leaders are to be idolized and appreciated for their attitudes, personalities, relationships, and work ethic. According to Northouse, transformational leaders have an addictive quality to their followers, and this motivates followers to achieve more tasks than expected (2016).
From my personal experiences, transformational leaders are hard to come by but I have definitely had the pleasure of working with some great ones. One of the most effective examples I have of a transformational leader is my current store manager, his name is Jim. In Erie (my hometown), there are two Wegmans Super Markets. One of the stores is on the west side of town which is where I work, and the other store is on one of the busiest streets in our city, Peach St. Jim was the store manager at the Peach St. store for over a decade. Just recently, the store manager at my store and Jim ended up swapping stores (for reasons I am unsure of). While the store manager I was used to and had worked for since I started my job there five years ago was decent, she was far from a transformational leader. I did not realize how much she lacked these motivating qualities until after I had experienced the new store manager. The woman who was my store manager for five years resembled more of a transactional leader which “occurs when leaders and followers are in some type of exchange relationship in order to get needs met. There may be no purpose to hold leaders and followers together once the transaction has been made” (PSU WC, Lesson 10, 2019). She was not a very personable manager and to be honest, I rarely saw her or spoke to her. She was more concerned with ways to advance her own career rather than focusing on the employees and how to motivate them to do their best work for themselves and the company. Once the new manager came to our store, the entire atmosphere had changed and transformed into something more positive. As we learned in the lesson, transformational leadership “serves to change the status quo by appealing to followers’ values and their sense of higher purpose. Transformational leaders engage with followers and create a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the follower” (PSU WC, Lesson 10, 2019). The new manager represented all of these changes in a variety of ways. Every morning, he walks around the store and says hello to every employee, asking how their day is going. The first day he did this I was completely caught off guard and pleasantly surprised. Within the first week of him being at our store, I believe I had more conversations with him than I had in the five years I spent with the other store manager. Not only does he acknowledge everyone and make them feel valued, he also takes the time to talk one on one with people in his office and get to know them on a personal level. He shows in countless ways that he cares about the employees which leads them to respect him and want to work harder in order to achieve success for him and our store.
Some of the characteristics involved in transformational leadership were reviewed in our lesson. These characteristics include vision, rhetorical skills, image and trust building, and personalized leadership (PSU WC, Lesson 10, 2019). These characteristics are defined as followed:
- Vision:transformational leaders are future-oriented. They recognize the problems of a present system and offer a vision to overcome these problems.
- Rhetorical skills: transformational leaders are talented at sharing their visions. They can heighten followers’ emotional levels and inspire them to embrace the vision.
- Image and trust building: transformational leaders build trust in their followers through an image of self-confidence, moral conviction, and personal example and self-sacrifice.
- Personalized leadership: transformational leaders share strong, personal bonds with followers. They are sensitive to the emotional states of followers and are adept at picking up social cues.
(PSU WC, Lesson 10, 2019).
Based on the past few months I have now spent working for the new store manager, I can honestly say that he embodies these characteristics and represents them daily. When a leader values all of these things, they are much more likely to find success in employee happiness and retention for the company. Many organizations encounter problems with employee retention and one of the best solutions to that issue would be to find more transformational leaders and less transactional leaders. As a follower, I can truly say that I feel more empowered and respected by the new leadership of our store and I am happier to work for this type of leadership because I feel more appreciated than I ever did before. When a leader takes the time to get to know their followers, it will ultimately result in better success and the follower will put more effort and care into their work.
The last type of leadership we had discussed in this lesson was Laissez-faire leadership. “Laissez-faire leaders do not really lead at all; the term is actually French for “leave alone”. So a laissez-faire leader leaves followers to their own devices” (PSU WC, Lesson 10, 2019). I have experienced managers of a smaller scale (department managers) who have expressed characteristics of this type of leadership. This is probably the worst type of leadership because if the leader doesn’t put forth any effort or care, then the followers surely aren’t going to either. This type of non-leadership allows followers to make their own decisions and basically create their own rules. With this type of freedom, it is highly unlikely that anyone would achieve success in their organizations’ goals.
Keeping all of these types of leadership in mind, it is astonishing how much of a difference can be made with a transformational leader. An organization can be completely transformed from a negative environment to a positive one just with the presence of a transformational leader. Another leadership style, charismatic leadership, is another powerful and respected style of leadership that would show similar results as transformational leadership. “Charisma is defined as a special personality characteristic that gives a person superhuman or exceptional powers and is reserved for a few and results in a person being treated as a leader” (PSU WC, Lesson 10, 2019). This type of leadership would be successful in gaining a solid support system as well. Overall, it is very clear to see why certain leaders are more successful and valued than others.
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership; Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Williams, J. (2019). PSYCH 485: Transformational Leadership: Lessons 10 [Power Point Slides]. Pennsylvania State University: World Campus. Retrieved from: