Transformational Leadership: What Are 6 Stages of Change?

Last Updated on October 28, 2022 by Milton Campbell

Being a transformational leader is very important in the age we live in. Businesses are constantly adapting to better meet the needs of their customers. Look at Google, the company started as just a simple search engine and has grown into so much more. They are constantly updating their business, coming up with new ways to do things, and finding new ways to fill needs.

As leaders, we must adapt and lead our teams through change. If we are stuck in our ways and can’t change with the times, we may get left behind in the company. The change will normally start with the leaders. We must see opportunities to grow and get our teams on board with the change. The best way to do this is by being a transformative leader.

The stages of change below, also called The Transtheoretical Model, was developed by Prochaska and DiClemente in the late 1970s based on how people quit bad habits like smoking or drinking. Understanding this model can be great for not only personal growth but also leadership development because these stages directly translate into something that can help guide us through change as leaders. Making us a better transformational leaders.

Words describing transformation for transformational leadership and the 6 stages of change.

Table of Contents

Transformational Leader Characteristics

Transformational leaders exhibit the following characteristics and traits:

The 6 Stages of Change and How to Use Them to be Better Transformational Leader

The 6 stages of change are:

  • Precontemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Determination
  • Action
  • Maintenance
  • Termination
Caterpillar representing early stages of transformation

Transformational Change Stage One

Precontemplation is the first stage. In this stage, people don’t see a problem or a need for change. There are four main reasons for this stage, called the “Four Rs”.

Reluctant is the first reason. These are people that are reluctant to consider change because of a lack of knowledge or lack of motivation. Rebelliousness is the second reason. These people rebel against change because they believe they are being told what to do. Resigned is the third reason. These people may have made attempts in the past to change but believe they are unable to make the change due to those failed attempts. Rationalizing is the fourth reason. These people make excuses and rationalize why the change is not needed.

Leader’s Perspective

As a transformational leader, our team members go through many of these same issues when going through a change. Employees may be reluctant, rebellious, resigned, or even rationalize excuses for why the change is not needed. Recognizing these barriers to change allows us to head them off and get our team on board for the change.

See Related: How to Be More Charismatic (21 Surefire Ways)

Transformational Change Stage Two

Contemplation is the second stage. People in this stage have begun to see there is a problem. They begin to gather information and resources to help them make the change. They begin to build the pros and cons and see many of the negatives of not changing. Although negatives are acknowledged, people in this stage are still on the fence about making the change.

Leader’s Perspective

This is the stage where transformational leaders need to discuss the need for change. Also, we should be helping all our employees see the need for themselves because they must ultimately decide to change. Although there are times when we would like people to just do what we say, it is up to the person on what they do. For this reason, we must utilize our power of influence and share our vision with our team.

Learn how to increase your circle of influence with your employees.

Transformational Change Stage Three

Determination is the third stage. This is the stage where a person has decided to act and make a change. The pros of change have finally begun to outweigh the cons. In this stage, people develop a plan on how to change. Most individuals that make it to this stage, at least make a serious attempt to change.

Leader’s Perspective

For a transformational leader, this is an exciting stage. People have decided to get on board with the change. This means you have help and constructive criticism from your employees on how to make the change work. In this stage, you should seek ways to get your employees involved as much as possible in the change. The more they get involved in the planning stages, the more they will help make the change a reality.

Image of a cocoon representing middle stages of transformation

Click here to learn how to make a vision statement that motivates and inspires.

Transformational Change Stage Four

Action is the fourth stage. The plan is put into action in this stage. Many times, people in this stage will let others know they are making the change. This helps them stay committed to their efforts. They may even seek help from others to stick with the change.

Leader’s Perspective

This is the stage where you as a transformational leader put your team’s plan into action. Just like the planning stage, you need to keep your employees involved. Keeping your employees involved will help reinforce the change. Also, it will make it less likely to have major setbacks.

Transformational Change Stage Five

Maintenance is the fifth stage. In this stage, people build patterns over time. This is the stage where the change is sustained over a long time. During this stage, individuals may begin to let their guard down and relapse is possible. After relapse, if they can recommit to the change they typically learn from the relapse and build skills to prevent relapse in the future.

Leader’s Perspective

Your team has made the change, but your job is not done as a leader. You must monitor the team closely for regression. Relapses and setbacks will happen. If they are caught and corrected early enough, they won’t become complete regression. Ensure you recognize progress and let your team know how well they are doing with the change.

Transformational Change Stage Six

Termination is the sixth and final stage. In this stage, the individual has no or little temptation to return to their old ways. The risk of relapse is very low at this stage. This person has complete confidence that they are not going to return to their old ways.

Leader’s Perspective

In this stage, you should still monitor your team for regression but it is much less likely. The change has become the new normal for your team. This is the stage you want to achieve as a transformational leader. It means you have successfully made the change.

Monarch Butterfly representing late stages of transformation

Transformational Leadership Examples

  • Bill Gates – He transformed the world with his company Microsoft by changing the ways computers operated.
  • Mark Zuckerberg – He transformed the way people communicated and stayed close with Facebook.
  • Abraham Lincoln – He transformed a whole country by passing laws for equal rights.
  • Martin Luther King – He was another leader that transformed the country with his vision of equal rights.

How to Use This in Leadership

Although this was developed based on alcoholism, this can be useful in many leadership situations involving change. Knowing these stages can be very beneficial for becoming a transformational leader. Help those around you see the need for change. Then develop a plan for change. Once a plan is developed, help them implement the plan. Guide them through the change helping them make the new processes habits. When they become habits long enough, these habits will become the new normal. Until it is the new normal, help keep individuals accountable and on track.

You may also like 10 Common Types of Leadership Styles and How to Use Them.

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