In business, it's common to encounter a variety of leadership styles. Some leaders are chief delegators, handing out tasks and expecting results. Others are more like charismatic politicians who look to motivate employees with enthusiasm and energy. Still, others are like little dictators, sending out top-down commands and not tolerating any pushback.
Perhaps all these styles have their time and place; they might work in some situations. But I believe there is only one style that achieves consistent results: Transformational leadership.
Transformational leadership focuses on inspiring change in individuals and organizational systems. Unlike transactional leadership, which depends on self-motivated direct reports who operate in a well-structured environment, transformational leaders aim to motivate workers to strive for higher levels of engagement and reasoning.
The good news is that it doesn't matter whether you're a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a line manager at a fast-food restaurant. Transformational leadership is an approach and a practical philosophy that can make organizations or business units operate at extremely high levels.
According to academic theory, transformational leadership is about:
- Idealized Influence
Leaders embody, and model desired values and behaviors
- Inspirational Motivation
Leaders provide a compelling vision and inspire followers.
- Intellectual Stimulation
Leaders encourage creativity and critical thinking.
- Individualized Consideration
Leaders attend to and support individual follower's needs.
Following are four key components that will help you to adopt Transformational Leadership
Let's look at them to understand better how someone might deploy this approach in the real world.
Self-awareness is possibly the most crucial trait of a transformational leader. An effective leader must have a well-tuned emotional intelligence, achieved by understanding who they are, their motivators, strengths, and weaknesses. Transformational leadership starts with managers working on themselves to build the credibility needed to inspire change in others. Managers with solid self-leadership are often reflective and seek feedback for improvement. The starting point for achieving "Idealized influence" is knowing who you are, your values and your beliefs to translate them into behaviour and be a role model for your direct reports. Start by reflecting on your values to see if they match what you expect from others.
It's no secret that motivated employees typically perform better. But how do leaders motivate their employees? Sure, appropriate compensation is an essential component of motivation. Still, many employees also want to feel like they're a part of something bigger and more critical.
That's why transformational leaders must deliver an inspirational vision of the future and motivate workers to move towards achieving that vision. They convey the purpose and importance of organizational goals and link them to employee's values. They help direct reports look beyond their self-interests and focus on achieving team results.
As a starting point, you can capture your context through a SWOT analysis and develop a compelling ideal state you aim to achieve with your team.
To achieve their vision, transformational leaders must develop operational excellence. This involves setting up organizational structures and processes needed to reach the future state as expressed in the vision. Transformational leaders break down big goals into executable action plans. They coordinate collective efforts and provide resources and coaching to help team members succeed. They track progress and celebrate wins along the journey.
When correctly executed, operational excellence achieves continuous improvement, empowering employees to assess their work critically. If you are not there yet, ask simple questions like: Why do you do what you do? Does it add value? To whom? If you could change anything, what would it be and why?
The final component is people management. Transformational leaders invest time and energy in the growth and well-being of their reports. They identify development needs and mentor followers to reach their full potential. They manage performance fairly and establish two-way communication channels. Transformational leaders create a culture where people are empowered to drive change and bring the vision to life. This starts by knowing your people personally. Good questions to start with include: How are you? Can you tell me something about you? Why are you working here? Transformational leaders are genuinely interested in their rep and let it flow.
Each of these components can be an excellent trait for a leader to focus on. But when combined, these factors allow transformational leaders to inspire change and elevate individuals and organizations to higher levels of achievement.