How to Become a Transformational Leader

— January 21, 2019

With today’s organizations facing increasingly complex and urgent challenges, the principles of agile leadership are more important than ever. Leaders who possess the capabilities to connect, adapt, and deliver are uniquely equipped to promote peak performance while encouraging innovation and change for enduring success. Identifying high-potential employees who can demonstrate transformational leadership is one of the most important tasks facing companies today.

While establishing meaningful connections and driving performance are critical components of agile leadership, the ability to adapt can have a truly profound impact on an organization. These transformational leaders have the ability to recognize changing dynamics and adjust rapidly to overcome challenges, reimagine strategic direction, and propel innovation.

Transformational leaders possess a number of qualities that set them apart. They are good listeners, which helps them to better understand their teams and facilitate positive collaboration. Their ability to inspire and empathize ensures that engagement levels remain high while turnover stays low. By keeping promises and honoring their commitments, these leaders demonstrate that they are honest, ethical, and worthy of trust. Their leadership style allows them to build a reputation for credibility and accountability, making it easier for them to secure the commitment and buy-in needed to push through difficult change initiatives.

Here are a few ways leaders can become more transformational:

Improve Situational Awareness

Transformational leaders understand that nothing is permanent. Situations can change quickly and dramatically, forcing them to adapt accordingly. Both internal and external events have the potential to impact an organization’s effectiveness with very little warning. Strategies that were able to deal with one situation effectively may not be applicable to the next, forcing leaders to make adjustments and find different solutions that make sense for the moment. With their knowledge of the company’s culture and goals, transformational leaders can adapt to changing circumstances to steer the organization toward sustainable success without compromising its values.

Expand Systems Thinking

Many of today’s leaders operate within incredibly complex organizations comprised of multiple interconnected departments and overlapping operations. A change to any one area within the organization can create unexpected ripple effects. As transformational leaders react to changes, they need to have a keen understanding of how these systems are connected to one another. This allows them to anticipate the impact of changes and take steps to compensate for them before they spiral out of control. When it comes to implementing change initiatives, systems thinking is absolutely crucial to managing unforeseen problems and ensuring as smooth a transition as possible.

Coordinate Across the Organization

Regardless of their position or leadership style, leaders cannot singlehandedly impose solutions and enforce changes throughout an organization. To be successful, they must secure buy-in from relevant stakeholders at all levels of the company and coordinate with them to implement change initiatives and other strategic plans. Without this coordination, negativity, bias and commitment dip can undermine even the best plans on the ground level. Transformational leaders need to work closely with others to set expectations and keep relevant information flowing. They must also make an effort to empathize with the people who are affected by their decisions.

Lead By Example

A big part of inspiring and communicating expectations is setting an example for others to follow. When an organization is facing challenges, transformational leaders need to model the positive actions, behaviors, and attitudes they believe will produce the best possible results. As leaders, their high visibility ensures that employees will be watching them and taking note of whether they’re holding themselves accountable to the same rules and expectations they’re communicating to others. Leading by example helps transformational leaders build trust, foster collaboration, and inspire others to be more engaged in their work.

Maintain Focus

While situational awareness is critical for reacting to changing circumstances, transformational leaders also need to keep their attention on long-term commitments and strategies. Solving day-to-day problems can be very distracting, making it difficult to maintain momentum for change initiatives and work toward larger organizational goals. This is especially important for leaders trying to fight commitment dips and performance plateaus. Effective transformational leaders find ways to address short-term challenges without compromising their vision for where the organization needs to go in the future.

As a component of the agile leader model, transformational leadership is especially important for organizations going through change and disruption. Leaders who possess these qualities are better able to manage new situations and make proactive decisions that allow companies to adjust operations on their own terms without compromising their values.


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Author: Darleen DeRosa

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