4 Essential Steps to Becoming a Transformational Leader
By Dr. Theresa Bullard
Ask anyone what they think of when they hear the word “leader” and you will likely get an answer that widely differs from the next. The fact is there is no “one size fits all” definition of leadership anymore than there is for the word management.
The most basic definition of a leader is someone who commands or leads an organization. Yet when I think of the word “leader”, my interpretation goes far beyond simply commanding others.
To me and a rising demographic of Millennials and Cultural Creatives, real leadership involves more essential qualities such as the ability to inspire and to exude passion, intelligence and charisma. In fact, many of the traits we identify with being a leader are ones that encompass the ability to motivate and transform us.
So what exactly is this style of leadership? Enter the era of Transformational Leadership.
Originally introduced by James MacGregor Burns in 1978, transformational leaders are able to inspire followers to change expectations, perceptions, and motivations to work towards common goals.
In fact, a Transformational Leader is defined as someone who brings about valuable and positive transformation in individuals, organizations, and social systems. They empower and develop the people they lead to become leaders themselves, and challenge them to bring out their best and take greater ownership of their work.
Why is this important?
“The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them.” — John C Maxwell
So how does one go from being an ordinary “command-style” leader to a Transformational Leader?
We’ve identified 4 Essential Steps to Becoming a Transformational Leader:
Fundamental to becoming a Transformational Leader is the ability to inspire others. People look to leaders as inspirational role models, encouraging them to be the best they can possibly be. Embodying the quality of inspiration, refers to a leader that is committed to enhancing motivation, morale, interest and performance in the people they lead.
So how does one inspire those that they lead?
Express your ideas with passion. Communicate with integrity. Lead by example, Articulate your vision clearly. Exude confidence in your teams’ abilities. Most importantly, help those you lead to experience motivation toward a collective vision or goal.
As Henry Kissinger once said, “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” An essential step to becoming a Transformational Leader is the ability to awaken others to new possibilities and extraordinary outcomes. Authors Bass and Riggio describe Transformational Leaders as “those who stimulate and inspire followers to both achieve extraordinary outcomes and in the process, develop their own leadership capacity.”
So how does one awaken possibility in the people they lead?
Practice authentic presence. Act with integrity. Communicate a clear and uplifting vision. Finally, show compassion, expertise and a commitment to a higher purpose in all that you do.
Recognizing that the people you lead must feel connected to the vision and purpose of what you are collectively creating is another essential step to becoming a transformational leader. Authors Bass and Riggio describe transformational leaders as, “those who help followers grow and develop into leaders by responding to individual followers’ needs, by empowering them, and by aligning the objectives and goals of the individual followers, the leader, the group, and the larger organization.”
So how does a leader embody the quality of connection?
By inspiring a sense of self-identity and culture in the people they lead with those of the collective and its mission.
Identify & Optimize–
The final essential step to becoming a Transformational Leader begins with cultivating the ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the people they lead. Why is this important? Once a leader defines team members’ strengths and weaknesses they can then be aligned with organizational strategies for optimizing an individual’s performance.
A Transformational Leader understands the importance of helping others to achieve their potential.
To do so, you must first recognize the potential within those you lead by observing them, getting to know who they are, what they are passionate about, and where they excel and ‘light up’ with focus and enthusiasm. In addition, given that no one is perfect, nor should perfection be expected, it is also essential to be aware of each person’s liabilities and then work together to find creative ways to redirect and steer clear of pitfalls.
Optimizing requires teamwork and taking a vested interest in seeing each member of your team, and the team as a whole, thrive and grow.
Once the strengths and weaknesses are identified, a transformational leader helps to guide those they lead to also see where they can become great when they develop their potential. Invest in the development of your team and their ability to become leaders in their own right. Finally, strive for steady progress rather than perfection. Instead of using old paradigm motivators such as fear, coersion, guilt, control, etc. find positive and empowering approaches to motivate. Identify ways to measure and reward progress. Celebrate victories together, even the small ones. Acknowledge, encourage, and empower with constructive and positive feedback. This further inspires, awakens, and connects your people to strive to the next level and push their own progression, so that the cycle of improvement will continue onwards and upwards.
Stay tuned next week as we dive further into the topic of transformational leadership by identifying 6 key characteristics that make up a modern day transformational leader.