How to Become a Transformational Leader in Four Steps

Anyone can become a transformational leader by reflecting on his or her attitudes and mindset. In order to become a transformational leader, put these four elements into action:

  1. Idealized influence
  2. Inspirational motivation
  3. Individualized consideration
  4. Intellectual stimulation

Step 1: Idealized Influence

Idealized influence, sometimes called charisma, describes a leader’s ability to inspire high standards and serve as a role model for outstanding professional practice. Such a leader gains the trust and respect of staff.

How to implement this:

  • Actions speak louder than words. Model the behavior you want others to mirror. Rather than only telling others how you’d like them to act, show them.
  • The brain is wired for the negative, so focus on what others are doing well instead of their shortcomings. Be positive in the face of negativity.
  • Never forget the power of saying “thank you;” adding specifics will reinforce the behavior you want repeated.
  • Give feedback kindly.
  • Acknowledge difficult situations.
  • Leverage others’ strengths.
  • Remember the 3 “Bs”: Be kind. Be trustworthy. Be visible.

Step 2: Inspirational Motivation

Inspirational motivation refers to the leader’s ability to communicate a vision others can understand and want to take part. It aligns individual and organizational goals to create a sense of purpose. For example, a hospital leader with a transformational style would find creative ways to inspire staff with a vision for the future, including meeting with groups of staff or using staff emails to lay out goals and ways of reaching them.

How to implement this:

  • Help others see the big picture and explain the reasons why.
  • Don’t micromanage. Instead, give people the freedom to “go do.” There’s more than one way to do something so give your employees the freedom to accomplish the objectives.
  • Engage employees. Think about what keeps your employees engaged—and know that this will change over time. Do this by talking to people and asking them what they want to accomplish. Also remember that customizing rewards and recognition is a simple and effective way to keep someone engaged.

Step 3: Individualized Consideration

Individualized consideration refers to the commitment of the leader to coaching and mentoring, and the leader’s awareness of and concern for the needs of nursing staff. A transformational leader knows individual staff members’ career aspirations and is often in a position to guide subordinates to invaluable mentoring opportunities.

How to implement this:

  • Learn how someone perceives themselves to find an employee’s strengths.
  • Communicate frequently and in different ways—verbally, written and in the ways that others might respond.
  • Push employees gently to move them out of their comfort zone.
  • Help people understand sphere of control and that they need to concentrate on themselves.
  • Give effective feedback. One thing to remember is that it’s important to give praise publicly and give negative feedback privately.

Ten Steps for Effective Feedback

  1. Convey your positive intent.
  2. Time feedback appropriately.
  3. Establish a common goal between the two of you, such as good patient care.
  4. Describe what you have observed, and be very specific about the observation.
  5. Focus on the behavior, not the person.
  6. Watch your language. Stick to the facts, and avoid terms like “always” and “never.”
  7. State the impact of the behavior, such as how it affects patients, co-workers or themselves.
  8. Take a pause, and ask the other person to respond and listen.
  9. Focus on solutions—they need to be joint solutions to work.
  10. Establish a timeline for the solution.

Step 4: Intellectual Stimulation

Intellectual stimulation is provided by a leader who asks for and values staff input, who challenges followers to develop creative and innovative solutions and who continually seeks ways to provide growth and development opportunities. A climate of intellectual stimulation prompts employees to challenge assumptions, reframe problems and look at new ways of doing things. It also encourages creativity, innovation, critical thinking and problem solving.

How to implement this:

  • Understand why you are doing something. Is it because you’ve always done it that way or does evidence support this method?
  • How can we do this better? How can we do it more effectively? Answering this means being open to new ideas and trialing new ideas.
  • Support creativity at work. Many of the best ideas comes from people doing the work and it’s important to be open to those ideas.
  • Think critically. How much is emotion governing your behavior versus reasoning? We often act instinctually and emotionally— it’s important to make sure you’re thinking something through rather than reacting. Also, ask yourself if it’s your problem to solve or if the issue belongs to someone else.
  • Ask yourself, “Am I using evidence-based practice?” Read widely and outside of your practice area.
  • Try to bring solutions to the problem. Focus on how you are going to solve the problem immediately and also ask how to prevent the problem from happening again.
  • Think collaboratively. Understand the mindset of the people you’re working with and respect what each person brings to the table.


Transformational leadership inspires people to achieve unexpected or remarkable results. It gives employees autonomy over specific jobs, as well as the authority to make decisions once they have been trained. Managers who have transformational leadership characteristics create a climate where employees have a greater commitment to their organizations and higher levels of morale, job satisfaction and work performance.

It’s also important to remember that each generation has its strengths and weaknesses. As a growing number of Baby Boomers retire from the healthcare workforce, Millennials are stepping in to replace them.

To increase your organization’s capacity to adapt in a changing healthcare setting, it’s crucial to understand how these nuances can be pieced together to lead a productive and engaged multi-generational team.


Curriculum Designer for Clinical Education, Relias

Maria Morales, MSN, RN, is Curriculum Designer for Clinical Education: Nursing, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Allied Health at Relias. Her background includes adult critical care nursing, postanesthesia nursing, and nursing education.

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