How to Become a Transformational Leader

Transformational leadership is a type of leadership style that can inspire positive changes in those who follow. Transformational leaders generally are able to successfully inspire people, teach others how to solve problems and are committed to creating change. They also use their passion, charisma and vision to make a positive impact.

Teresa-Weatherall-NealOne transformational leader who’s making a difference in the community is Teresa Weatherall Neal, Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent. She’s inspiring decision makers, business owners, families and local residents to improve the Grand Rapids public schools system through its Transformation Plan.

Whether it’s in your business or community, here are some ways to become a transformational leader:

Create a vision and find your purpose.

Transformational leadership begins with a vision, which will eventually serve as a tool for inspiring others. Weatherall Neal explained “you can’t lead what you don’t believe in.”

Once you’ve identified your vision, determine why you want to spark change. For Weatherall Neal, she created a vision to turn around GRPS and transform it into a top performing school district.

“I’m leading because education is a social good. I’m here because it’s the right thing to do for Grand Rapids,” said Weatherall Neal. “If you don’t see your business as a social good, you won’t be able to successfully lead. People will only follow you if you believe in your business.”

Collaborate with others.

Relationships play a powerful role in successful transformational leadership. “Leading with the heart in mind starts with relationships,” said Weatherall Neal. “Bring your vision to others and help people understand the urgency of [your] need.”

When the Transformation Plan initially launched, Weatherall Neal had to build relationships with students, teachers, administration, parents, business leaders and community members. By creating these relationships, she was able to gain valuable feedback on her vision for GRPS and motivate others to see value in the Transformation Plan.

Invest in talent.

Another key element of transformational leadership is investing in talent. Especially if you’re trying to improve your business or community, you need to have the best team.

In an effort to create a stronger school system, Weatherall Neal made it a priority to hire better teachers, principals and administrative staff. To accomplish this, GRPS hired a talent acquisition manager to locate top talent and created a budget for recruitment.

Today, Grand Rapids Public Schools is one of the only urban districts in Michigan to have successfully turned around. Over the last 41 months, GRPS has experienced increased attendance and enrollment. In fact, City High School is ranked as the top high school in Michigan and 83 in the United States. These accomplishments were only possible because of Weatherall Neal’s commitment to her vision, the relationships she created and her ability to inspire others.


This information is taken from Teresa Weatherall Neal’s presentation, “Transformational Leadership,” at the May 2015 Business Matters Series and was first published in the June 2015 issue of The Chamber News, written by Olivia Adams, Communications and Social Media Specialist at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. Visit www.grandrapids.org/business-advice to find more thought leadership like this.

Anna Young Administrator
Digital Content Specialist

Anna is the digital guru for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce

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