There are those who believe that men are created equal, but the truth is every once in a while, there are certain individuals who greatly affects the course of history as much as they affect the lives of many different people who are touched in one way or another of the extraordinary life of these extraordinary individuals. They are known as ‘transformational leaders’. The definition of transformational leader is spread all throughout different fields; there are transformational leaders in the field of politics, civic and social service, faith and religion, and in business and economics.
Bass and Steidlmeier (2004) believes that transformational leaders have four different components, and they are “idealized influence (or charisma), inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (Bass and Steidlmeier, 2004, p. 179).” These characteristics are found in the three individuals who embody the essence of being a transformational leader, namely Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and The Dalai Lama.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is one of the iconic leaders of the 20th century who represented the value and worth of the use of non violence to campaign for social change. Growing up in India which was during his time under the British rule and seeing first hand how the suffering India citizens are not getting any better because of the presence of colonial rule, Gandhi sought the reformation of the socio-political order in the hope that the rule of India will be given to the people of the country and away from the white rulers.
But unlike other popular freedom fighters, Gandhi resorted to peaceful means, including the very popular Salt March, a form of non violent act of protest that represented that problem of trade and industry in the country and how the British rule is stifling the opportunities for locals to have a source of income to feed themselves and their families.
Because of his contribution not just to his country but to social thinking around the world that inspired many other different world leaders, Gandhi is considered as one of the few individuals who embodied the ideals of a transformational leader. As Clark (2001) explained in his book, “Gandhi, in his own right, used nonviolence as a means to transform India from a British colony into a free nation (Clark, 2001, p. 172).” Gandhi taught the world about the essence of simple living and the value of forgiveness, which he exemplified throughout his life until he was assassinated at age 78.
Mother Theresa – No one could have embodied the ideals of selfless service to the poor and the needy more than how Mother Theresa did it. Mother Theresa is a transformational leader because she spent her entire life teaching the rest of the world about one single most important thing – compassion for fellow men. She did not seek popularity or fame, all she wanted to do was help the people in need, offering to those in need whatever she can extend to other people to alleviate their current situation.
Mother Teresa did not have wealth to use as magic wand to transform the suffering around her to instant life of ease, and so she resorted to working hard everyday so that she has the means to help her country men. Her courageous and noble act soon became an inspiration to many people around the world, and many came forward to extend their assistance because they were inspired by Mother Teresa’s initiative.
As Harrell (2003) wrote in the book, “Mother Teresa didn’t do what she did to be noticed or recognized. She modelled a leader with health self esteem. Transformational leadership speaks for the lives we touch (Harrell, 2003, p. 47),” and adding that transformational leadership is not about numbers and statistics, saying that “if you asked Mother Teresa, she would have probably said, Feeding the hungry, tending the sick, and clothing the cold in the streets of Calcutta (Harrell, 2003, p. 47).”
The Dalai Lama- The Dalai Lama showed his characteristics that made him a transformational leader through his efforts that were geared in two things, first, the influencing of other people to always reconnect with the inner peace in one’s self through religion, faith or self meditation, and secondly, the influencing of global policy favoring those who are consistently marginalized and harassed especially in the China-Tibet political frontier through his non-violent actions.
Hacker and Roberts (2004) provided a glimpse of the dilemma that the Dalai Lama faced which kick-started the events in his life that made him one of the popular transformational leaders of the contemporary time. Hacker and Roberts (2004) wrote, “If you were the spiritual and political leader of more than six million people and were kicked out of your country by a foreign power, how would you maintain and even grow your community? This is the challenge that faces the Dalai Lama (Hacker and Roberts, 2004, p. 69).” One of the many continuous challenges that the Dalai Lama have faced ever since he took the role of leader, not just in the field of religion, but as well as in the field of politics.
Conclusion – Transformational leaders serve as inspiration because of their active action geared at addressing current problems and providing solutions which will not cause any negative impact towards other people. This is an important characteristic of being a transformational leader, the capability for selfless action, to avoid directing interest towards one’s self and avoiding being self centered. As Bass and Steidlmeier wrote, “Personalized leaders, primarily concerned with their own self-interests, could not be truly transformational leaders (Bass and Steidlmeier, 2004, p. 179).” Despite being involved in somewhat different field (Mother Teresa is social and civic service, Gandhi in public service through political intervention and The Dalai Lama intervening politically through religious and non violent efforts), the three above mentioned individuals showed the world what it means to be a transformational leader; despite being hailed by the media as the popular, selfless and service oriented people of their time, the three transformational leaders never yielded to the promise of good life, wealth and influence that being a popular transformational leader brings. Instead, they used this influence and popularity to inspire more and more people to follow their lead.