Lately, we have been talking a lot about leadership and which kind of leadership style is the best and most efficient way of leading a company. Since my team and I also prepared the expert of the day session regarding this topic, I want to further elaborate on this topic.
The term “transformational leadership” is often described as the 4 “I’s”. These characteristics are individual consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation and idealised attributes & behaviours. Describing each term it becomes clear which kind of characteristics a manager should possess. Individual consideration describes managers who act as coaches and advisors to their employees and try to encourage them to reach their goal. Through intellectual stimulation, managers want to animate their employees to be innovative and creative. This is often achieved by the manager challenging the general belief or view of the group. They want to achieve critical thinking. The term inspirational motivation describes managers who motivate their employees to commit to the company’s vision. Last but not least, idealised attributes and behaviours describe managers who act as role models to their employees. Hence, they are trusted and respected as they act in the company’s best interest.
Furthermore, there are five personality traits, which contribute to the likelihood that an individual has the potential to become a transformational leader. These are extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Managers who score high on extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness and low on neuroticism have good chances to become a transformational leader.
Since all of these descriptions of transformational leadership characteristics are rather theoretic, I want to give a real life example of a transformational leader. I found an interesting article about Nelson Mandela by Paul Schoemaker, which points out why Nelson Mandela definitely was a transformational leader. Thereby, one can see that transformational leaders are not just around in the business world but for example also in politics.
Nelson Mandela’s leading style was characterized through earned authority, authenticity, commitment, mastery of communication and consistency of message. I want to give a few examples of his leadership style to emphasize his outstanding achievements and to show that he possessed character traits of a transformational leader.
For example, he really appreciated the power of symbols. This is illustrated by the fact that he directly visited Betsie Verwoerd, the wife of the “architect of Apartheid”, after he was released from prison. Nelson Mandela was generally known for his brave words, there he said: “I am working now with the same people who threw me into jail, persecuted my wife, hounded my children from one school to the other… and I am one of those who are saying: Let us forget the past, and think of the present.” This shows that he scores high on agreeableness, inspirational motivation and idealised attributes and behaviours.
Another example really emphasizes that Mandela scores high on idealised attributes and behaviours. After 1994 when Mandela became president he already knew a lot of high profile business leaders personally. He often tried to win them to financially support his social projects. A well known example is when he convinced one important manager with a lot of financial resources to donate money for one of his projects. The manager was asked to accompany Mandela to the Eastern Cape. First he tried to cancel the meeting but Mandela insisted on it. Then the manager talked to his financial director to set up a limit of 500,000 Rand, which he would donate for the project. When he arrived at a football stadium in an area which had been completely flooded, 80,000 school children simultaneously bowed to welcome the manager. He probably would not have expected such a welcome and in the end he doubled his donation to 1,000,000 Rand.
These example show that good leadership such as a transformational leader is needed everywhere in the world. With his highly earned authority and respect, Mandela could positively influence other people, such as the business manger, to do good things and to set an example of making the world a better place.
Article by Paul Schoemaker