Transformational Leadership: Leading From the Core

Blog Image: 


Transformational Leadership: Leading From the Core

Dr. Taneisha Ingleton


We all want to see things change. We all want to be part of something meaningful and we all want to be fulfilled in our jobs. Nobody gets up and goes to work with the intention of messing things up. Our behaviours and dispositions are often screaming one thing, ‘the need to feel valued, respected and appreciated for what we do’. How then can these seemingly simple needs be met in an organization? Who has the time or the tenacity to ensure that each worker is being valued, effective behaviours are lauded and ineffective performance is respectfully communicated and strategies for improvement employed? Seriously, whose job is it to be checking organizational temperatures, monitoring and evaluating, visioning, strategizing, anticipating and planning for change?  Isn’t it much easier to just go to work and focus on our little desks and leave? The answer to that is a resounding no. Every member of the organization has a role to play in the ethos of the workplace and the professional well-being of our colleagues. However, it takes a certain kind of leadership to set the pace and shape the culture of the organization for each member to see themselves in the big picture.


Recognition that we lead people, not machines

We are leading people: People observe, they feel, they talk, they criticise and they make conclusions. Machines are not so gifted. Therefore, the way we lead people has to be radically different from the way we deal with inanimate things. We have to suppress self, let go of egos, be willing to take the back seat sometimes and include others in the decision –making process as much as possible. Transformational leadership is about working on self first and then the ripple effects will follow. Burns (1978) articulated that transformational leaders “convert self-interest into collective concerns” (p. 19).
Transformational leadership is diametrically opposed to the old model of formal, one-person leadership” (Ingleton, 2013, p. 223). It believes that people are capable and so provides opportunities for capabilities to be maximized. Essentially, the transformational view of leadership dictates that “the function of leadership is to engage followers, not merely to activate them, to commingle needs and aspirations and goals in a common enterprise and in the process make better citizens of both leaders and followers” (Burns, 1978, p. 461, Ingleton, 2013,p. 222). Northouse (2004) offered a similar perspective. He outlined that “transformational leadership is a process that changes and transforms individuals. It is concerned with emotions, values, ethics, standards, and long-term goals, and includes assessing followers’ motives, satisfying their needs, and treating them as full human beings” (p. 169). Leaders must then recognize that others are critical to the leadership process and demonstrate that in their practices. This can be achieved through Competence and Confidence, providing Opportunities for the organization to grow, showing Respect to all you lead and Empowering others to take your place and lead at a higher level than you were able to.


The leader of the organization: All the baggage belongs to you

The head of the organization has a key role to play. When you make a decision to take the leadership of the organization, you have made a commitment to take on all its baggage. Its past failures are yours. Its successes are yours and  its constituents with all their perspectives, issues, attitudes and indifferences are yours. There can be no blame game, no passing of the buck, no excuses or declarations of a lack of awareness. It is all yours to reshape, re-imagine and re-create. As the leader, you have to first recognize that you have the most awesome opportunity to make the organization into what it can really be….that organization that each member of staff wants to be proud to be associated with. So, then, how do you do this? There are no single approaches or series of steps that can make one an effective leader, however there are proven strategies that if employed will make significant positive differences.

Competence and Confidence

Leading from the Core then takes an unprecedented belief in your Competence which will be demonstrated by the Confidence with which you execute your duties. Competence and Confidence go hand in hand. They are one side of the same coin. Your competencies are the specific skills that you possess that are unique to you.  When you are competent at what you do, you seemingly do it effortlessly and people respect you because you deliver. The transformational leader leads from a platform of performance and not potential or talks of past accomplishments. Being able to do and get results will eventually silence critics and earn you the respect you need, build your reputation, and increase your confidence to get the organization to the next level. Leadership is much more by example than precept. If gold rusts what will silver do? It was Collin Powell who once said, “You can issue all the memos and give all the motivational speeches you want, but if the rest of the people  in the organization don’t see you putting forth your very best effort every single day, they won’t either.

Opportunities have to be created. They are rarely offered

The transformational leader creates Opportunities. Opportunities have to be sought out, created, and seized. The transformational leader does not sit and wait on things to happen to move the organization forward rather he or she puts things in motion for great opportunities to emerge.  The quality of work that you do will translate into the quality people and business that you attract. Various individuals and organizations will be lining up to work with you and for you when you have a track record for finding ways to win.

The transformational leader is Respectful.

You cannot lead people you don’t respect. In order to lead well, you have to learn to respect the people you lead. It will take deliberate efforts in building relationships and winning people over with the quality of your interaction and not by your position or external influence. It takes respecting their points of view even though they are opposed to yours and treating them fairly regardless of how much you know that they feel about you. Invest the time and energy to get to know about them and what they value and greater benefits will accrue.  Transformational leadership is about relationships and it is impossible to relate well with people you do not respect. Caring for people you lead will transform their attitude towards you and cause them to develop a loyalty and commitment to you and their work beyond measure.

The transformational leader Empowers.

Recognizing that others bring unique gifts to the table that you as a leader just do not have is critical to how you will progress in the leadership journey. Others need to be given a voice and a space to show that they can. They need to be trusted to the work and then recognized for having done it well. No vision can be accomplished without an inner circle…a team of people who are enabled, empowered and entrusted with tasks and strategies and initiatives. It takes a strong sense of security and abundance mind-set to release people, to show them to the world and to stand back and make them take the lead. Contrary to popular thinking, it adds value to you rather than take it away. When your team members are shining they shine on you and in turn, your organization is illuminated. The highest priority then must be to develop others so that the success of the organization can be sustained even when you are not around.

Followership is just as important as Leadership

Followership is a critical leadership construct that is often omitted from the leadership discussion.  However, no leader can claim to be transformational if they have not followed members of their team and followed well. We must follow others regardless of hierarchy if the individual we are following has demonstrated the capabilities in the particular area assigned. People do not need to be of a certain age, possess any great qualification or experience to lead well. As a matter of fact, age, experience and levels of qualification must never be assumed to be equated with effective leadership. Though these may be variables, we have seen from our discussion that effective leadership requires much more which do not take age, qualification and experience to possess.

Importantly, one does not have to be in a defined leadership role to be a leader of a team. Positions of hierarchy are secondary and often peripheral in the matter of leadership impact. People will follow you based on your influence, attitudes and values. Therefore, every single member of the organization is positioned to lead and to do so effectively.   When given a task, it must be tackled with tenacity and the highest degree of engagement. Your output and the attendant attitude or behaviours that accompany your deliverables will earn you respect in your team, regardless of where you fall on the organizational chart. So remember, if leadership is to be transformational your impact can never be neutral. It has to create change, command collective purpose and to make better citizens of both leaders and followers.





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

Ingleton, T. (2013). College Student Leadership Development: Transformational Leadership as a

Theoretical Foundation. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 3, 219-229

Northouse, P. G. (2004). Leadership: Theory and practice (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Profile of Writer

Dr. Taneisha Ingleton is the Acting Director/Principal at the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL). She is a Competency Framework Consultant, Educational Leadership Researcher and Facilitator, Leadership Development Programme Writer and Designer. She earned her PhD at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. Her scholarly writing, her experiences and her dissertation research have focused significantly on leadership development. 


Great article Dr. Ingleton! If my leadership is to be transformational, my impact can never be neutral. Food for thought.

Thanks for your comment...

A TIMELY blog and I do agree that leadership starts at the core.

Unfortunately, our leaders lack the CONFIDENCE to lead/ guide, motivate, empower and the skills to communicate respectfully ineffective performance.

But the good news is that LEADERSHIP can be thought and practiced (YEA). Let us get rid of our 'buckra' mentality and strive to undertand that we are dealing with people and not machines.


A very inspirational article that is timely.  Reminds us as leaders of key pointers if wetruly intend to transform the sector, the change has to begin with the leaders.

A very powerful paper on transformational leadership Dr. Ingleton. In the cross-cultural context, leaders face the ongoing pressure of influencing others who are rooted in their own cultures that are significantly different from theirs (Adams, 2017). For these leaders to be effective, they must first have a fairly good knowledge and appreciation for these cultures that will be a vital factor on which the success of the organization is dependent (Adams, 2017). It would therefore be interesting to see how cross-cultural differences influence transformational leadership.

Andrae Adams, Ed.D.

Dr. Ingleton - Relevant, inspiring, and timely blog. As we endeavour to transform the educational landscape;team members role interchange and the impact is rewarding both for leader and followers as well.

Being a transformational leader at a time as this mandates one to self evaluate on a regular basis. How willing are we to do this? We should make the effort to. 

Real food for thought!

Add new comment