The Four I's of Transformational Leadership

Transformational leaders don’t start by denying the world around them. Instead they describe a future they’d like to create instead
— Seth Godin

A very popular theory of leadership today is transformational leadership.  There are many different versions of what it is exactly.  There are four main components to of transformational leadership, which are commonly referred to as the 4 I’s.

Idealized Influence

  • Being clear on values, role modeling and authenticity. Walking the walk and being admired for this. 

Inspirational Motivation

  • Having an inspiring vision and sharing it, being optimistic and having a sense of purpose and drive. 

Intellectual Stimulation

  • Encouraging of learning, action.  Rewarding success, learning from errors, innovating.  Creating the environment for those “light bulb moments” and increased problem solving. A common misunderstanding is that transformational leaders are “soft”, but in reality, they continually challenge followers to higher levels of performance.

Individualized Consideration

  • Demonstrating genuine interest in people, coaching and mentoring, recognition and respect of differences.  This personal attention to each follower is a key element in brining out their very best efforts.

Impact of Transformational Leadership

Why is transformational leadership important?  These 4 I’s are strongly related to 4 leadership competencies that can impact productivity, decreased employee turnover and increase efficiency.  Embodying these skills will more likely increase work satisfaction, create trust and foster organizational commitment and loyalty

The 4 leadership competencies required of most leaders are:  authenticity, coaching insight and innovation.  These can be connected back to the 4 I’s:

Idealized Influence maps to Authenticity

Inspirational Motivation maps to Insight

Intellectual Stimulation maps to Innovation

Individualized Consideration maps to Coaching

An authentic leader serves as a role model to inspire moral and fair behavior, as well as to command esteem and confidence from colleagues.  It is at the core of effective leadership.  Without authenticity every other action of leadership is at risk of being ineffective.  To become more authentic, really get to know yourself and become self-aware.

A leader portrays insight by communicating a purpose, meaning and a vision for colleagues to follow.  A hopeful view of the future is communicated, and employees are compelled to reach and exceed their goals.  Schedule thinking time to think about the past, present and future of your team.  Invite others to share their goals for the future.  Ask yourself how you talk about your vision for the future?  Do you show others where they fit in this vision of the future?  Are you thinking about the future often enough?

Leaders who embodies innovation places importance on taking risks, spurring colleagues’ ingenuity, imagination and autonomous through.  Knowledge is valued, and challenges and new circumstances are views as learning opportunities.  Do you treat mistakes as failures or as opportunities for growth and development? 

Coaching effectively, a leader works as a mentor to colleagues’ concerns and queries and supports employee needs.  Employees are nurtured to achieve their highest levels of performance.  Powerful questions are asked to encourage critical thinking and development.  Individual differences are celebrated and valued. 

Transformational Leader Report Card

How are you doing as a transformational leader?  Take 2 minutes to take this quiz, adapted from Psychology Today, to find out where you might want to place additional focus.  Give yourself a grade (A,B,C,D or F) depending on how true the statement is for you.

Idealized Influence

1. I do not ask my team to do things that I would not do myself.

2. I clearly communicate solid goals for my team.

Inspirational Motivation

3. People often tell me that I inspire others.

4. I receive many comments about my positive outlook and high


Individualized Consideration

5. I know what is important to my team and get to know them


6. I encourage my team to stretch even if it is uncomfortable.

Intellectual Stimulation

7. I believe that teamwork can accomplish the greatest things.

8. I challenge my team to explore their thinking and see other possibilities

How did you do?  Most leaders who take this survey find that there is at least 1 area that needs improvement.  We talk about ways to improve in my Emotionally Effective Leader workshop.  If you find that this is a need for leadership in your organization, I’d love to chat with you to see how I can help.

Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important think that I can do because then they will act
— Jack Welch