But Burns had a specific meaning for it. He made a distinction between "transactional" leaders--those who take a more short-term approach to achieving goals through negotiations and compromise--and "transforming" ones, who seek to create change by helping followers become better versions of themselves. “Truly great and creative leaders do something more," he is quoted as saying. "They arouse peoples’ hopes and aspirations and expectations, convert social needs into political demands, and rise to higher levels of leadership as they respond to those demands.”
At a time when the word "leadership" is thrown about by politicians and corporate managers with little regard for what they actually mean by the term, it's worth remembering Burns' inspiring definition. "The function of leadership is to engage followers, not merely to activate them, to commingle needs and aspirations and goals in a common enterprise, and in the process to make better citizens of both leaders and followers."
Leadership is not just a title or a way to describe someone in charge. It is far more than the work of achieving political goals or managing an organization. "Divorced from ethics," Burns wrote, "leadership is reduced to management and politics to mere technique."
And it is much more than just power. “Leadership, in short, is power governed by principle, directed toward raising people to their highest levels of personal motive and social morality,” he wrote. “Power is different. Power manipulates people as they are; leadership as they could be. Power manages; leadership mobilizes. Power impacts; leadership engages. Power tends to corrupt, leadership to create.”