At the core of transformational change are feelings, nothing really changes unless people’s behaviours change and they must feel a certain way in order to make the change. How did the likes of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa build a following of millions and a legacy that will last for generations to come? They had a resounding purpose and strong sense of values that they used to build trust by being clear about their end goal. They also possessed such a strong desire to make the world a better place that they inspired action through people’s hearts and minds. Essentially, their followers were so confident that these leaders had enough determination and passion to light the path to lead them towards a brighter future.
The concept of transformational leadership was initially introduced by leadership expert and presidential biographer James MacGregor Burns. According to Burns, transformational leadership can be seen when “leaders and followers make each other advance to a higher level of moral and motivation.” Through the strength of their vision and personality, transformational leaders are able to inspire followers to change expectations, perceptions and motivations to work towards common goals.
From a business perspective, we have a plethora of values based leaders who have built some of the most innovative and successful companies on the planet. What made these leaders stand out? We have also watched companies that failed to makes changes to remain competitive start to disappear from the marketplace e.g Kodak, Blockbuster, HMV etc. Why did the leadership fail to transform these companies?
Why is this important?
For transformation to occur positivity and energy are a given, stagnation is no longer an option, and team work is mandatory. Every time a change effort fails there are costs involved in both the short and long term for an organization. Short term costs include the time and money wasted on a project that failed to deliver results. This could lead to the organization remaining behind the competition, failing to delivery much needed service improvements for the customer, jeopardizing service or product quality etc. and therefore potentially increasing levels customer dissatisfaction and eroding the brand reputation. On an internal level this leads to decreased morale and engagement, a lack of faith in the organization’s ability to change and frustration at wasted efforts of all those involved in the project.
The longer term costs can include lack of faith in the leadership team, resisting or sabotaging future changes and a decrease in the levels of emotional engagement. All of which will be reflected in how the employees interact with customers and how they talk to their family and friends about their company – slowly killing brand advocacy from the inside out.
How to Facilitate Transformation
Purpose-Driven - transformational leaders motivate and inspire people with the strong sense of purpose they bring to the change. You articulate a vision for change that connects the purpose of the organization to that of the employees and they display strong communications skills that engage people in the vision so that followers are willing to invest more discretionary effort in the work and are deeply engaged, no matter how challenging the task at hand.
People-Driven - these leaders understand that each person is unique and they play the role of mentor and coach to develop their employees. They are empathetic and supportive of the individual contributions of team members while at the same time challenge them to deliver high standards. They understand the intrinsic motivations of others and have emotional intelligence.
Idealized influence – Transformational leadership requires decision-making that works towards the greater good and be leading by example to ensure followers develop trust in order to move forwards with their leaders. “Values-based leadership is necessary for driving sustainable change as this ensures that the results achieved are underpinned with a strong moral and ethical foundation, thus they can also stand up to any scrutiny or resistance to change” Greg Stewart.
Perseverance through conflict – Experts agree that transformational change will create conflict when multiple stakeholders are involved who are trying to hold on to their way of doing things, afraid of losing power or unsure of what it will mean for their future. How you deal with the conflict and address it along the change journey will impact the time it takes to get people on board and motivated to act.
Transformational Leadership Test
- Am I clear on my own purpose?
- Am I clearly articulating this purpose and this link with my employees?
- Do I inspire people’s heads, hearts and minds?
- Am I clear on what drives each of the people I work with?
- What is my impact on others?
- What are the opportunities for significant impact that I can make in my organization?
- What are my core values?
- Do I exhibit these core values in the actions I take?
Change Friendly Leadership: How to Transform Good Intentions into Great Performance, Rodger Dean Duncan
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek