Of all of the professors I have had the honor of learning from over the course of my college career, Dr. Stephen Oross of The Kutztown University of Pennsylvania was the most inspiring, as he exhibited a great deal of transformational leadership for colleagues and students alike. As stated in Northouse (2016), transformational leadership is defined as “ a process that changes or transforms people…An exceptional amount of influence that moves followers to accomplish more than what is expected of them” (p. 162). Dr. Oross did just that, often taking the most uncertain, disinterested of psychology students, and profoundly transforming them into protégés.
As expressed in Northouse (2016) a common trait of transformational leadership is an element of charisma, something that sets apart the leader from other individuals in similar leadership positions, raising their influential level from ordinary to extraordinary. Dr. Oross possessed the charisma to inspire his students, not only from his vast knowledge of psychology, but also his unique ability to overcome overwhelming obstacles. Dr. Oross had unfortunately been afflicted with a disease in the middle of his career that took the ability to walk away from him, leaving him wheelchair bound. Through the power of determination, the strength of will, and the hard work of physical therapy, Dr. Oross was able to overcome his physical limitations and push through a difficult recovery. Because of his experiences, Dr. Oross did not accept excuses for subpar work, and demanded students’ very best, no matter the personal circumstances. As expressed in Northouse, charismatic leaders expect the greatest efforts from their followers, and believe in their follower’s abilities to successfully reach their desired path or goal (2016).
The most important aspect of Dr. Oross’ charismatic leadership was that his ability to overcome overwhelming odds inspired his students to to do the same. I recently met a Kutztown University college grad, and he instantly began discussing how inspired he was by Dr. Oross’ ability to transform uninspired students into inspired individuals, passionate about their studies and the world around them. This is the essence of transformational leadership, and defines what sets it apart from mere transactional leadership.
Transactional leadership is a style that is marked by a transactional exchange between leaders and follows (PSU WC, 2018). After the transaction has occurred, such as the end of a college class or college career, the leaders and followers do not hold a connection, and the leader-follower relationship has ended. Dr. Oross often kept in touch academically and personally with his former students, continuing the inspirational exchange between the leader and the followers. Through continued exchange, Dr. Oross was able to continue providing the pillars of a transformational leader: inspirational motivation, continued intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (Northouse, 2016).
Above all, the most important aspect of experiencing transformational leadership is how it lights a spark in individuals to be transformational leaders themselves. If I had not observed the amount of dedication, grit, and spirited human nature that Dr. Oross had imbued in every aspect of his life’s work, I certainly would not have been nearly as inspired to overcome my own obstacles over the years. Transformational leaders such as Dr. Oross inspire followers to believe in themselves, trust in the capabilities of others, and perpetuate the highest order of positive influence and change for the world around them.
Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2018). PSYCH 485: Lesson 10: Transformational Leadership. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1972967/modules/items/25704956