A Model for Transformational Leadership

Are you experiencing high talent turnover and struggling to match performance with your competition? How would you describe your organization’s overall health?

a) 100% healthy?

b) 80% healthy?

c) Less than 50% healthy?

You would be surprised how often I hear answer “c” from the leaders and teams we serve.

Most of us have routine cycles of maintenance scheduled to keep our vehicles in good, safe working order, but I find it curious how often leaders don’t apply that same thinking to the teams they lead. My question: How intentional are you in caring for your team?

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In a recent post, I posed a challenge to consider how and when the three types of organizational change should be activated and the degree of transformation impact:

  • 1.0 – Standing Change: Improving upon “what is” by tweaking an existing method, skill, or standard.
  • 2.0 – Active Change: Shifting to a new state to improve upon “what is” through the investment of new structures, business processes, and/or technical systems.
  • 3.0 -Transformational Change: A radical shift and fundamentally different approach, mindset, and method.

Investing in Standing and/or Active Change is important in maximizing effectiveness and efficiency. These mid-flight adjustments are common and don’t necessarily require gutsy nerve, just clear and agreed upon instructions. Conversely, Transformational Change is complex and and has the potential to create a ripple effect of impact across all facets of organizational life. Rather than a shift, it is a metamorphosis from current state into something fundamentally different, which supplants all that was known and experienced previously.

The High Waterline of Leadership

Leadership expert James McGregor Burns first introduced the concept of transformational leadership in his 1978 book, “Leadership.” He defined Transformational Leadership as a process whereby “leaders and their followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation.”

Bernard M. Bass further developed the concept of the Transformational Leader. According his 1985 book, “Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations,” this kind of leader:

  • Is a model of integrity and fairness.
  • Sets clear goals.
  • Has high expectations.
  • Encourages others.
  • Provides support and recognition.
  • Stirs the emotions of people.
  • Gets people to look beyond their self-interest.
  • Inspires people to reach for the improbable.

Roughly thirty years after these seminal publications, Transformational Leadership is well argued to be the most important attribute of leaders who are worth following.

Becoming a 3.0 Leader

Transformational Leadership is far from a linear process but it does have a number of reliable touchstones for leaders to imitate.

  1. Create: Inspiring Vision of the Future
  2. Motivate: Teams to Engage and Deliver Upon Vision
  3. Develop: Clear Operational Strategies
  4. Build: Strong, Relational Cultures

Step 1: Create an Inspiring Vision

Individuals need to feel compelled to follow. This is true for exercise routines, musical performers, a restaurant chain; everything! A compelling vision springs from an organization’s purpose and values while giving hope and confidence to those being served.

Step 2: Motivate Teams to Engage and Deliver Upon Vision

A leader’s call to action is to appeal to people’s personal values and to integrate these core beliefs within the “why” of the organization. The use of positive storytelling and sharing “real time” impact for your customers is important. Linking vision to individual goals, values, and tasks give it a real texture and context allowing others to more readily channel-in and contribute.

Step 3: Develop Clear Operational Strategies

A vision is of no use and falls pathetically short if it is only a high gloss token of memorabilia from an event but never internalized. It must become part of the water system and reinforced repeatedly. However, many leaders put most of their energy into the design of vision but not putting in the hard and often mundane work of operationalizing it. Warren Bennis says it succinctly: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

Step 4: Build Strong, Relationship-Based Cultures

Transformational Leaders empower those they lead. They intentionally and deeply invest in their people and they work tirelessly to calibrate both high support and high challenge. If your job title hints that you are a leader, then tag: You’re it! Your ultimate duty of care is to build and maintain relationships, earn trust, and create opportunities that allow your team to grow and develop, which, in turn, builds teams worth following.

Transformational leaders inform when they must and inspire whenever they can. Inspiring great loyalty and trust is the leadership standard of excellence and significant in securing 100% team health, engagement and capacity.

So how about you? Are you ready to grow and become a 3.0 Leader? Perhaps it is time for a leadership upgrade. I’d welcome the opportunity to talk to you more about how GiANT can partner with you to transform your leadership. Email me at joseph.hill@giantworldwide.com.