Transformational Leadership

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It’s Monday morning at 6AM and you have just waked up from a peaceful nights sleep. Suddenly and without warning, an overwhelming sense of dread comes over you. It’s your first day as the manager at your workplace, and the shear weight of the position has just hit you. Initially when you were offered the job, you felt like you were the best qualified, smartest, most prepared person for the job; you earned that position and now it’s your time. Unfortunately, this department has been in a state of disrepair for sometime and you hold some accountability for that as well.

You take a shower, brush your teeth, put on your best suit and begin you drive to work. All the while you are wondering can I make this work? Can lead the type of transformational change that is needed? Of course you can! You are the best-qualified, smartest, most prepared person for the job, right?

This is a conundrum that new leaders are put into far to often. They ‘earn’ their position by bidding their time, by playing the game better then others. Often, they are promoted simply because there is no one else in their workplace who want this job, or a combination of all of the above. How can someone who was part of the perceived issues in the workplace then go on to lead the organization and turn things around? It is possible, but it takes a personal gut-check to get it done.

According to Dr. Riggio, Ph.D., there are four components (or the 4 I’s) of being a transformational leader.

Idealized Influence (II) – the leader serves as an ideal role model for followers; the leader “walks the talk,” and is admired for this.

Inspirational Motivation (IM) – Transformational leaders have the ability to inspire and motivate followers. Combined these first two I’s are what constitute the transformational leader’s charisma.

Individualized Consideration (IC) – Transformational leaders demonstrate genuine concern for the needs and feelings of followers. This personal attention to each follower is a key element in bringing out their very best efforts.

Intellectual Stimulation (IS) – the leader challenges followers to be innovative and creative. A common misunderstanding is that transformational leaders are “soft,” but the truth is that they constantly challenge followers to higher levels of performance. [1]

Idealized Influence is one of the most important components of being a transformational leader, but all four of these areas need to be addressed. Anyone can gain positional power simply by job title, but achieving influence is much harder. Walking the walk doesn’t simply mean being on the floor with the staff, doing so would leave the executive functions that need to be completed lacking. What it does mean is having empathy for your staffs’ needs, not forgetting your days on the floor with them – the struggles and tribulations you also once went through back when you were a mere employee. It means consideration for concerns of the staff; lip service with inaction is more of a moral killer then simply not opening your door to their concerns.

How do you change? The first step is through reflection. “Reflection is learning from every-day experiences with the intent of realizing desirable practice…Reflection is generally viewed as having two dimensions: reflecting on experience after an event occurs and reflecting in action in real time, during an event.”[2] It is impossible to identify your personal shortcomings without taking an honest look at oneself. You need to look at past practice, see how it influenced others both in the positive and negative, understanding how your actions may have contributed to turmoil in the past allows you to adjust your tact in the future. You have to be passionate about the job as well. If you are using your new title simply as a stepping-stone for future opportunities, the status quo will be fine in your eyes. Next, what is your purpose? Not simply what is in your job description, those daily tasks that keep the organization running, but your purpose as a leader. This needs to be well defined to you personally and should become clear to you after reflection on the needs of the organization and it’s people.  You know have a purpose, you have reflexed on the issues at hand, but know what are your values? “Transformational leaders inspire others, and it is difficult to inspire if you are not acting in a way that is consistent with your own values.”[3]

Now, you have to tools to move forward. You understand the concepts, have identified your personal frailties (because none of us are perfect), and are in a position to transform the workplace for all. Will you take up the challenge, or merely continue the past practices that lead to dissatisfaction and poor moral? It is true that leaders take control of well-managed organizations everyday, without the issues you have identified at your workplace. These concepts can improve those organizations as well! Transformational leadership is not about gutting the current system in order to rebuild it in your own way; transformation leadership allows both poorly run and fully functional organizations to improve their products, enhance staff satisfaction, and increasing efficiency, to name a few.  All leaders have the capabilities to get there, are you ready to do the personal work needed?


[1] Riggio, Ronald E., Are You a Transformation Leader?, Cutting-Edge Leadership, Psychology Today, March 24, 2009,  retrieved on July 14, 2013 from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/200903/are-you-transformational-leader

[2] Johns, Christopher, Becoming a transformational leader through reflection, Reflective Practice, Reflections on Nursing Leadership, 2nd Quarter, 2004

[3] Morley, Miranda, How to Become a Transformation Leader, Small Business, Houston Chronicles, Retrieved on July 14, 2013 from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/become-transformational-leader-25397.html

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