Transformational Leadership

Transformational Leadership
This article is written by Timothy J. Murphy, Order of the Golden Eagle, Past Chief Executive Officer, Tau Kappa Epsilon International Fraternity. "The Transformational Leader" is Part 5 of an 8 part series on leadership.
Part 1: Leading vs. Managing – There IS a Difference!
Part 2: The Chapter Leader’s Toolbox of Excellence
Part 3: Identifying and Utilizing Your Leadership Style
Part 4: Your Leadership Structure

If you have an idea for an article or would like to share your knowledge with TKE Nation, please reach out to us at We would love to learn more!

Tim Murphy

Perhaps you’ve heard of the term “transformational leadership” in your ongoing study of leadership styles. It’s been around a while; in fact, this term was coined by sociologist James V. Downton (University of California, Berkeley) in 1973. He examined the traits and processes of “transformational” leaders, and identified the environments in which they thrive and create incredible positive change. As we examine this type of leader, you’ll quickly realize how your chapter can benefit from fraters who possess this skill. In addition, you might even realize that you are the type of leader we are describing!

This type leads by example. He inspires others around him to reach their full potential in their various endeavors. He understands what motivates his fellow fraters, and is keen at matching up their skills and passions with needed projects. He is not often “out front”; rather, he can be somewhat quiet and not desirous of attention. He is driven by systems and processes that are broken, as he is a “fixer”. He doesn’t really care for too much structure, and will work to eliminate anything that looks like a bureaucracy. He can be described as entrepreneurial, and can actually see and feel what he defines as success. More importantly, he can get those around him to share that vision, so they also know exactly the things they need to do to achieve that success. In every sense, he is a motivator. As Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller (also a well-known transformational leader) said, “Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.”

Does your chapter need this type of leader? You bet it does. As chapter leaders, you understand the importance of always evolving your member benefits and features in order to create the greatest Teke experience. For example, your social programming must be “fresh” with new and interesting activities available for member enjoyment. Your recruitment and education programs are always being honed to meet the needs of your new members. Your chapter’s very leadership team must make it attractive and fun to hold office or chair a committee or task force. The transformational leader is exactly what you need to keep these facets of your operation at peak performance.

Most people can usually be described as “positive” or “negative” in their general attitudes and outlook, and approach leadership using these positions. Interestingly, this leader is equally passionate about positive AND negative situations. A positive motivator for him is creating and maintaining a program or event that is valued by all the fraters, helping them enjoy membership in our great fraternity to the fullest. Thus, he loves creating successful outcomes. His negative motivator is systems or processes that are broken; he’ll work diligently on transforming those ineffective structures or programs with ones that are more efficient and work well. If you often find yourself asking, “Why do we do it this way?”, or “Is there a better way to do this?”, you re likely a transformational leader.

Where does this leader fit into your chapter? Well, that depends on what’s “broken”, outdated, ineffective, or overly bureaucratic. If the recruitment program is not producing results, you just found your next Rush Chairman. If the finances need an overhaul, he’ll seek to be Crysophylos. If the social program is getting stale or boring, he’ll enjoy serving as Social Chairman. He will gravitate towards whatever situation needs to be remedied.


Do you see yourself or a fellow frater as this type of leader? Here are a few more telltale traits. The transformational Teke leader is:

  • A master communicator – He can express his opinions and visions with elegance and absolute clarity, making others seek to be on his team.
  • Team-oriented – He loves being the “coach”, and he considers his “team” the sole route for achieving success. He expects the other team members to be equally responsible and accountable for goal attainment.
  • Organized, yet creative - As we said earlier, he doesn’t like a whole lot of rigid structure, but he is organized; usually using his organizational skills to replace an unnecessarily complex system. His creativity is apparent, and he will come up with some pretty unorthodox ideas. He expects his team members to be quite creative as well.
  • One who uses short-term goals to achieve long-term success – Using his communication skills, he creates shorter-term goals for his team so that they can see those little “victories” along the way, keeping them motivated to realize the long-term vision.
  • Respected and respectful – He is respected and trusted by his fellow fraters, and he bestows that respect on them.
  • Fun – He understands that TKE is a social fraternity, and having fun is a regular part of his life. He knows how to have fun; but even more importantly, he knows how to create fun.

Every successful organization – including TKE chapters – needs transformational leaders in their ranks. Because TKE is always striving to be cutting-edge, these leaders are exactly the people who can improve, innovate, and rejuvenate, making our Fraternity experience the superior one we’ve all come to expect and enjoy.

For more information, please contact:

Garrett Thomas
Communications Specialist
317-872-6533 ext. 252