James M. Burns: Transformative Leadership

James MacGregor Burns was a path breaking thinker about leadership. His 1978 book on the subject is still widely regarded as foundational. He separated out two types of leaders. One is transactional. This is a person who moves things forward with bargaining and cajoling but doesn’t change people The other is transformative. This leader engages followers to rise up to a higher level and turns followers into leaders.

The same distinction applies to how we lead ourselves. Do we lift ourselves up or just muddle through? Interesting question.


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