Leadership theories explore the dynamics between leaders, followers, and the broader organizational or societal context. By studying leadership theories, we gain insights into different leadership styles, behaviors, traits, and their impact on individuals, teams, and organizations. Continuing into Part III, we explore the transformational leadership theory and how leaders who convene can effectively implement the principles of this theory when collaborating with stakeholders.

The transformational leadership theory developed over time, beginning with James V. Downton’s introduction of transformational leadership in 1973. Downton laid the groundwork for understanding leadership that inspires and transforms followers. Burns (1985) expanded the theory highlighting the leader’s ability to inspire and elevate followers through a shared vision, and further developed by Bass (1989), Bass and Riggio (1999), and Avolio and Gardner (2006). Today, the theory continues to be studied and refined, and contemporary leaders like Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For America, exemplify its transformative power. Through her organization, Kopp has profoundly impacted education by recruiting and training talented individuals to teach in underprivileged communities, inspiring similar initiatives globally. Another notable leader, Kakenya Ntaiya, has transformed the lives of young girls in rural Kenya through her nonprofit, the Kakenya Center for Excellence, by providing education and promoting gender equality. Lastly, as the CEO of VolunteerMatch, Greg Baldwin has revolutionized volunteer engagement, connecting individuals with meaningful opportunities in their local communities. These leaders demonstrate the transformative potential of transformational leadership in addressing social issues and creating positive change.

In 1989, Bass put forth a seminal framework for the transformational leadership theory, identifying four essential pillars: Inspirational Motivation, Intellectual Stimulation, Individualized Consideration, and Idealized Influence. These pillars serve as fundamental elements that shape the practice of transformational leadership. Now, let’s delve deeper into these pillars within the context of convening leadership and collaborative engagement with stakeholders.

Inspirational Motivation. Convening leaders who exhibit the first pillar, inspirational motivation, inspire and motivate stakeholders through a compelling vision, encouraging them to achieve beyond their expectations. They communicate a clear purpose, instill enthusiasm, and generate excitement about shared goals. Convening leaders understand that addressing pressing societal challenges requires a clear and inspiring direction. Convening leaders ignite a shared sense of purpose among stakeholders by envisioning a future where these issues are overcome.

Intellectual Stimulation. The second pillar, intellectual stimulation, is demonstrated as convening leaders foster creativity and innovation by challenging traditional thinking and encouraging stakeholders to explore new ideas and perspectives. They promote critical thinking, invite input and feedback, and create an environment that values and nurtures learning and growth. This pillar of intellectual stimulation is crucial for convening leaders because it fosters creativity and innovation and empowers stakeholders to think critically, embrace change, and contribute their unique perspectives, leading to continuous learning and growth among stakeholders.

Individualized Consideration. The third pillar, individualized consideration, is exemplified as convening leaders provide personalized support and guidance to stakeholders. These leaders acknowledge and respect stakeholders’ unique strengths, needs, and aspirations, offering coaching, mentoring, and development opportunities that promote stakeholders’ personal growth and well-being. Convening leaders understand that providing individualized consideration validates their commitment to support each team member’s unique strengths and needs, creating a unified and empowered collaborative.

Idealized Influence. The fourth pillar, idealized influence, is actualized as convening leaders serve as role models, setting high ethical standards, and demonstrating integrity and authenticity. They inspire trust and respect by acting in ways that align with their values and principles. They lead by example and establish trust, credibility, and confidence among their stakeholders. This pillar of idealized influence is essential for convening leaders as it creates a solid foundation of trust and credibility, contributing to an environment where stakeholders are motivated to work together toward positive change and transformation.

These pillars together enhance the convening leader’s ability to inspire and empower stakeholders, catalyze positive change, and attain exceptional outcomes as the community unites to address complex societal and global problems.

Taking inventory of whether or not you exhibit transformational leadership involves self-reflection and evaluation of your leadership behaviors and impact. Outlined below are several steps to aid you in evaluating your transformational leadership qualities:

  1. Reflect on your ability to inspire and motivate stakeholders: Consider how effectively you inspire and motivate individuals to go beyond their limitations and strive for excellence. Reflect on your strategies to communicate a compelling vision and empower others to achieve their full potential.
  2. Assess your ability to promote intellectual stimulation: Consider how effectively you challenge traditional thinking, encourage innovation, and foster a climate of continuous learning and growth. Reflect on your efforts to promote critical thinking, invite diverse perspectives, and create an environment that values creativity and exploration.
  3. Evaluate your level of individualized consideration: Assess your approach to recognizing and addressing stakeholders’ unique needs, strengths, and aspirations. Reflect on how well you provide personalized support, coaching, and mentoring to foster their growth and development.
  4. Examine your ethical standards and integrity: Reflect on the extent to which you consistently uphold high ethical standards and act with integrity in your leadership role. Evaluate how your actions align with your stated values and principles and their impact on building stakeholder trust and credibility.

In each step, seek feedback from stakeholders, team members, and individuals you lead. Remember that convening leadership with a transformational leadership style is a journey, and self-assessment is an ongoing process. Be open to feedback, adapt your leadership approach as needed, and continue to develop and refine your leadership qualities over time.

Next, in this miniseries on leadership theories, we shift to servant leadership, a philosophy and approach that emphasizes effective collaboration and underscores the leader’s responsibility to serve others because community matters.

In community,

Dr. Pat

Patricia A. Clary is a consultant who champions the advancement of strategic community impact agendas to address intricate societal challenges through collaborative efforts, convening leadership, and effective governance. If you would like to know more about the different leadership styles, please get in touch with Dr. Clary through the following channels:


– LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pat-clary/

– Facebook: PatriciaAClaryPhD

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Patricia A. Clary, Ph.D.

Columnist Community Matters / Collaboration / Convening Leadership / Governance / Systems-Thinking