Mentoring – Why Aren’t You Doing It?

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                   The development of future leaders is one of the qualities of servant leadership according to Skip Preichard [i], but is one area where many ‘leaders’ fall short. There are many reasons for this, but I want to address the most pathological reason – fear of competition.

The fear of competition is not something that most managers will acknowledge, at least openly, although all to many of them suffer from this malady.  Many people who see themselves as a leader (different from actually being a leader), think of themselves as the best and brightest in their area, and they have a hard time accepting that there very well may be many subordinate to them who are not only as capable at doing their job, they may be the future leaders of the organization if they are given the tools to advance. One of the goals of any true leader should be to cultivate the capabilities of those below them, and develop them into the next generation of leadership, even if they someday replace you!

How does a leader go about identifying and nurturing the future leaders of their organization? First is identification of the future leaders of your organization.  While various organizations have training pipelines in place, a pathway for leadership development or what have you, though utilizing only these structured processes can lead to missed opportunities. There are a few traits that good leaders should possess that you can identify early on in someone’s employment that identify good candidates for mentoring; willingness to learn and take on responsibility, emotional intelligence, a level head, and empathy[ii] are easy to ascertain by simple observation and engagement.

Once you identify those who posses these traits, an informal or true mentorship can go along way in their development. Not only does having this process in place benefit the employees, it can be a win for the organization as well in the areas of employee retention, engagement, and recruitment. Lets be honest, no one likes being in a dead-end job where their opportunities for growth in the organization are limited at best. Even if someone doesn’t want to move up, as humans we have a need for the ability for growth. From the organizational perspective, having formal mentoring processes in place allows your company to retain human and intellectual capital, and foster employee loyalty over the long-term (something that todays companies struggle with in the era of frequent employment change).  Along with this, mentoring engages both the mentor and the mentee in the goals and operations of the organization in a positive way. I am not saying that all mentor programs work well, unfortunately this is not the case. However there are ways to maximize the mentor experience for all involved. Bowing Corporations suggests that mentor programs need to have a specified period of time, a strong structure for matching a mentor with a mentee, ongoing evaluations of the process, among others.[iii] These are easy targets to hit, if you want to invest the minimal time it will take to set them up.

So, back to they why this may not be part of your process – fear of competition.  In some cases there is a fear from managers that those below them may actually replace them before you feel it is your time to move on. Some show this by making poor hiring decisions, only bringing in those that will never be competition to them for whatever reason. Others simply ignore the potential they have in front of them, allowing great people to leave instead of fostering their growth. Those in the latter case may make the work environment marginally hostile, or at least moderately miserable for their subordinates so they choose to move on. Those leaders shut the door on their staffs’ abilities without consideration of out-of-the-box possibilities that could be explored.  Having this type of management style may be personally beneficial in the short term to you, but from an organizational level it is toxic, leading to dissatisfaction and hostility.

Starting a mentoring process is easy, great leaders throughout your organization will be willing to engage employees in a mentor-mentee relationship (as this is an attribute of being a great leader). Maybe it’s not your personal interest to be involved, and that is fine. Reach out to other leaders in your organization and establish a mentor program for your staff.  Don’t worry about competition as that is really out of your hands anyway. Your staff, department, and organization will only be stronger for it in the long run.


[i]  Prichard, Skip., 9 Qualities of the Servant Leader, Skip Prichard Leadership Insights, Retrieved on July 28, 2013 from http://www.skipprichard.com/9-qualities-of-the-servant-leader/

[ii]  HC Online., Identifying the future leaders of your company, Human Capital Management Online, Retrieved on July 28, 2013 from http://www.hcamag.com/opinion/identifying-the-future-leaders-of-your-company-128539.aspx

[iii] Sterling, Robert., 1-to-1 learning; Mentoring helps Boeing prepare leaders-and attract, retain and develop the company’s employees, Boeing Frontiers, February 2007

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Finding Fault, and Not Solutions

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Don’t find fault, find a remedy” (Henry Ford)

         When I think of this statement, I think of a leading reason why managers fail to lead their people; searching for fault instead of solutions to issues that arise at the workplace. Searching for a cause is sometimes needed, so don’t think I am living in some utopia without guilt. There are times when knowing the why something happened is very important when looking at an issue. Actually, I will give you that most time knowing why is important moving forward, but there is a difference in finding out why and finding fault.

When finding fault is the reflex response to most situations, you are not looking for solutions, you are looking for blame only, and this is very counter productive. The reason why something happened could simply be a process problem, one that you as a leader could address directly and come up with a creative solution to moving forward. You will miss this though, if you don’t have the capacity to search for these process problems, and simply want to tackle blame.

Lets think about a new scheduling system that your organization recently put into place. This has put a lot of demands on your time; you never understood how difficult it is to cover all the shifts of your department in the past because others were in control of this. Now, with this new system you find yourself constantly looking for holes to fill, staff without shifts because there is no space to put them, per-diem staff needing shifts, but their full time obligations aren’t lining up with the needs of your department. You shuffle schedules around, moving people from one shift to another in order to get the schedule to work. After many hours you’re done, your shifts are covered and you feel a sense of satisfaction that the task is complete. What you have failed to recognize is the process problem lying under the surface, one that leads to miss shifts and confusion amongst the staff.

You see, in order to fill all the holes, you moved people’s shifts. Now, your staff’s individual schedules may not match up with what you have put into place. The result is a staff member missing a change you made and not showing up, causing a loss of productivity. The knee-jerk reaction to such a situation is to find fault with the staff member who didn’t show up as scheduled. It is their responsibility to look at the finalized schedule, and make sure they know when they are supposed to be there for goodness sake! You can’t possible personally notify every one of their schedules, it’s published and they should take the time to ensure they know when they should be at work.

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                My issue with this line of thought is complex. Is this a one-time event? Was this the first time there has been a staff issue about their schedule? Is this the first time there has been confusion about the new system and when / where your staff should report? If this is a one-time event, then fault may be the end of the story. However, I’m guessing it’s not, that there have been repeated issues and even with you addressing each one as they come up you are still seeing the same type of issues happen again and again. Why? You have worked hard on the schedule, and it’s not easy! Well, first off, when you see repeated issues involving the same topic, maybe it’s not a personal issue with the staff; perhaps it’s a process problem that needs to be addressed directly to improve the situation.

Finding solutions are often not easy, and process problems can be very complex to tackle. In the scenario above, maybe there just needs to be an automated system to let staff know of a change in their schedule. Maybe finding a way to publish the schedule in an electronic format (like a spreadsheet) once finalized and electronically sending it out to the staff to make changes more transparent is needed. The purpose of this piece is not to find a solution to this fictionalized scheduling issue, it’s to open your eyes that perchance fault of the individual is not what is needed in many solutions. All to often we look for the easy way out, the simple solution that allows us to address an issue without actually looking for causality. This is finding fault, and while staff culpability may be there, if we just take a breath and look deeper we may find that some of that culpability lies with us. Looking for fault isn’t a solution, and when we do this we are doomed to relive the events again and again.

Evil Side of Leadership

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The Evil Side of Leadership

            It is fair to say that most people who go for a leadership position do so with only the best intentions in mind. They care about the work or cause of the organization they wish to lead, be that a single department within a large organization, or as CEO of a fortune 500 company. All we have to do is look at the media to see many influential and successful leaders fall from grace, often precipitously, because the trappings of office get ahead of the original reasons they took those jobs.

As foolish as it is to think that there isn’t anyone out there who strives for a position of leadership purely for the power it holds, lets suspend credulity for a moment and look only at the best intentions, I’ll come back to the outliers at the end. When I see someone who is looking to gain a position of leadership of an organization, I first ask myself why. Why are they attempting to get into this new position? For many, it’s because they feel they can improve the situation of the organization or department. They see their personal past experiences as a value, and their attributes as a precursor to success. Attempting to gain employment in a position of leadership takes a certain amount of ego, but this shouldn’t be the overriding reason for the attempt. Most who strive for leadership positions do want to bring their assets to the organization, and improve the operation and bottom line.

With this being the case, why do so many fail? Anthony Weiner, a powerful congressman from NY put a bit too much out there on social media and was forced to resign. Elliot Spitzer had a bit of an issue with the ladies, and this in the end cost him more then the price of a night in a luxury suite. Sure, politicians are easy – they screw up all the time. We can also look at the military and Gen. David Petraeus, or at business at Scott Thompson, formally from Yahoo. In both these cases, these leaders let their ego get in the way of reality. Gen. Petraeus, a great military thinker was forced to resign after a scandal involving another woman. Did the commander of American forces in Afghanistan really think he could keep this dalliance under wraps? He probably did actually, he was the commander of thousands and wielded enormous power, whole divisions moved at his whim. He allowed his ego to cloud his judgment ultimately costing him is career.

What about Scott Thompson? Well he was a very successful man, a former VP of Visa and president of PayPal, but his ego was his downfall here as well. You see, Mr. Thompson wasn’t happy with the resume he had earned, one that most people would be envious of, so he decided to pad his resume with college degrees that were never conferred on him. Did he really think no one would look? Yes, I believe he did. With his impressive work history, he ability to lead and improve the status of companies being well known, I don’t think he ever thought that someone would actually vet is CV for actual degrees! Why would they, he was a success, there would be no reason to look hard into his far past, his recent accomplishments spoke for themselves; Mr. Thomas, as well as Petraeus, Spitzer, and Weiner were all went wrong because their ego’s allowed it to happen. Uncontrolled ego, no matter how well deserved, can lead to personal downfall.

A very closely related reason why leaders fail is they loose sight of their original goals. Again, assuming that you went for a leadership position to improve the workplace, after a period of time some loose their way and stumble onto the path of personal success at the expense of the organization. This path isn’t very clearly marked, like a walk in the forest it doesn’t take much more then a poorly calibrated (moral) compass to veer off course. Merely running a section of the organization isn’t enough; you want the big office next and you will do anything it takes to get there. You let the everyday issues of your department pile up without attention in order to impress your boss with your abilities to quickly and professionally fulfill non-departmental needs. You take the easy way out when there is a tough decision to make, maybe bending policies a bit in order to get the quickest solution, (see my Workplace Policy Enforcement piece for more about that). You push and push for more organizational responsibility, but loose sight of your original goal – to improve the environment that you find yourself in.

Want the good news? This isn’t an unrecoverable problem. If you find yourself off course you can easily correct with a minor correction in bearing. The first issue of ego can lead to scandal nevertheless you can recover. Let’s look back at the people I talked about earlier. Spitzer and Wiener have re-entered the political sphere, and are leading in the polls for the position they seek (shocker, I know). Gen. Petraeus has regained his lore, and is lecturing at colleges being offered large sums of money to teach leadership to others. And Mr. Thompson is once again a CEO, this time for Shoprunner.com, an online retailor. Why did they survive? It’s because at their cores they have the traits of good leadership. The politico’s aside, these two men know what it is to lead, and have proven track records of success, personal issues not withstanding.

Back to the beginning here, what about those who strive for power for powers sake? Of course they exist, and some of them actually have the EQ and cognitive ability to thrive. If you don’t have those attributes, eventually the evil side of leadership will come to light, power over all else, and once it does I hope your resume is up to date.

Workplace Policy Enforcement

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  • Consistent application and enforcement of workplace policies is the responsibility of human resources, department supervisors and managers. The consequences of applying workplace policies inconsistently can jeopardize business success. Companies that pick and choose which policies to enforce when are setting themselves up for failure, not to mention exposing themselves to potential liability for employee complaints about unfair treatment. Employers who selectively apply workplace policies eventually risk losing employees to substantial turnover based on low employee morale and overall dissatisfaction.” [i]

The workplace can be a frustrating for leaders and staff alike. One thing that makes each day just a bit easier is the fair and equitable enforcement of workplace policies. Now, I am a big fan of utilizing guidelines when possible; guidelines give you the broad strokes have how things should be done. They allow for flexibility and creativity, empower staff to make decisions when circumstances are not black and white. They are however, not always appropriate, as there are indeed times when black and white policies must be in effect. Policies on non-discrimination, harassment, sick time, and time card procedures don’t leave much room for discussion and are needed. This leads to the problem of todays post: What happens when these policies aren’t equally enforced?

Policies are in place for consistency and accountability. Most organizations have policies about overuse of sick time or excessive tardiness to name a couple. As leaders, we need our staff to be on the floor and ready work when we expect them to be there; not showing up to work as scheduled puts everyone else in a bind, increases their workload, and simply isn’t fair. So, for our first example let us look at sick time. If your organization has a policy in place that allows for 5 sick days a year without consequence great, and if a staff member uses all 5 they shouldn’t be talked to about it, it is your policy. That being said, if the same staff member is absent often, far exceeding that number of 5 in your HR policy and this is not addressed, it leaves the rest of the staff frustrated and even with the attitude of ‘if he can do it, so can I’. How do you then attempt to talk to a different employee about the same issue later on? You can’t! Not evenly applying policies leads room for litigation, “…in Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner v. Kohler Co., in which the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a summary judgment in favor of the employer because the employer failed to enforce its disciplinary policies uniformly.”[ii] That means the employee won in federal court because the management of his company failed to fairly enforce policies and the discipline he received was therefore illegal.

So why do managers sometimes unevenly enforce organizational policies? Perhaps they do it for convenience, a time when letting something go seems easier for them then towing the line. Maybe this policy needs to be revisited, is it really more of a guideline? If you look at a policy and can come up with reasons why you would choose to ignore it, then it probably doesn’t have to a policy of your organization.

Perhaps they do it because their personal workload is too great to be bothered? If this is the case, that manager needs to learn how to either improve their own workflow or delegate some tasks. Simply not doing your job because you can’t keep up isn’t a defensible option. Yes, there is no way you will know of everything that happens everyday, but if you are made aware of the issue, you need to act.

More unfortunate, maybe it’s simply a case of favoritism. Are you not enforcing policies on those who you personally like, or are great employees otherwise? While this is a normal reaction, if this is the why you are not equally enforcing policies you need to take a look in the mirror. Enforcement doesn’t need to mean discipline; this again is a matter of policy and you may have the power to change the wording in your policy manual. It is unfair however, and can lead staff to feeling picked on, or stoke the flames of a hostile work environment claim.

Every workplace needs to have policies in place, but it is advantageous from time to time to look at those policies and see which ones are truly necessary. The application of guidelines allows for flexibility, but shouldn’t be used for disciplinary issues. Managers must equitably enforce the policies of their organization, to do otherwise can lead to chaos and possible legal action in the future.


[i] Mayhew, Ruth. How to Enforce Policies Consistently at Work, Demand Media, Small Business Chronicles – Houston Chronicle, Retrieved on July 14, 2013 from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/enforce-policies-consistently-work-10970.html

[ii] Scroggins, Thomas W., Employers Must Enforce Policies Uniformly, Tanner & Guin, LLC., FindLaw, Retrieved on July 14, 2013 from http://corporate.findlaw.com/human-resources/employers-must-enforce-policies-uniformly.html

Workplace Accountability

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Accountability in the workplace seems like a no-brainer to most of us. We all go to work with a job to do, and we expect our co-workers to do the work assigned to them. What is often not thought about is reverse accountability; management being accountable to their staff. A workplace will not be successful unless everyone in the organization is held accountable for his or her actions and performance.

Employee accountability is something I would bet you are all familiar with, annual performance evaluations are used in industry to get a snap-shot of performance throughout the past year. Additionally, in the moment accountability happens in most industries, which is when a supervisor or manager addresses issues as they occur. My opinion is that utilizing these two types of accountability in the fashion that they are most typically used (as either immediate disciplinary action or a vague background in annual evaluations) doesn’t serve the employee or the manager well.

First, the easy one, employee accountability. Now, I’m not saying that the two styles of accountability stated above don’t have a place, much to the contrary I believe they are valuable tools in providing feedback to your staff. It’s the application of these tools that often fall short. In an organization with 50 employees it is nearly impossible for senior management to remember all the good things their staff did throughout the year without some sort of paper trail. Historically in many organizations, only ‘bad’ issues are documented, leaving frail memories to recall the small wins is simply failing your staff. My recommendation is for managers to keep track of the good along with the bad, this will allow you to give truly relevant feedback during annual appraisals. Not a lot of work, but the staff will appreciate having complete feedback every June.

In the moment accountability is needed, people need to be held accountable for their actions when those actions are recognized. Unfortunately, this is all to often utilized only for poor actions leaving the good accomplishments unrecognized. Managers need to address poor actions for sure, but don’t forget about the good that your staff does everyday, and let them know you recognize it.

Now, the more contentious issue, management accountability to their staff. I am a big fan of utilizing the concept of 360-degree reviews. Basically, this is a process where the management reviews the staff, and the staff reviews the management. Not really a satisfaction survey or engagement survey, 360-degre reviews allow for similar standards as seen on employee annual evaluations. Specifics are key to these surveys working. “My boss doesn’t understand us!” These types of responses aren’t applicable in a 360-degree review, as they don’t give any specifics that management can use for growth. Facts, backed up with examples allow management to actually get the gut-check and growth to help them improve. This isn’t a radical idea (other many managers out there may think so), companies such as Dell, LG Electronics, Doosan, G&B solutions all utilize this type of feedback and with good results. [1]

Much as with the annual employee reviews, utilizing the 360-degree feedback model is valuable, but by itself is not enough. Managers have to see themselves as accountable to their staff everyday, not just one day a year. This means that managers must understand that their staff is watching them every day. Failure to follow up on issues, poor communication, lack of empathy, or inability to complete tasks for whatever reason are often seen my staff as poor management. A manager has to realize that most staff is seeing these actions (or inactions) in the vacuum of their own experiences. They may not understand the why; why are you not getting back to them, why has it taken 3 weeks for an answer to what they see as a simple question, etc. Poor communication leads to misunderstanding, perhaps you are not able to answer the question because as a middle manager you are waiting for your boss, HR, or accounting to get back to you. You know this; unfortunately your staff does not. Part of being accountable to your staff is to communicate with them. As a manager you wouldn’t tolerate your staff not completing a task in a timely manner, and if a deadline were missed you would question them. Staff members may not feel comfortable doing this, but this leads them to having a poor understanding of the totality of the circumstances you are facing. This is your failure as a manager.

Accountability seems like an easy issue to deal with, although many managers fail in true accountability because they fail to address issues appropriately, fail to communicate with their staff, are not interested in hearing the feedback of their staff, or any combination of all. Mangers should take some advise of executives of the Dell or LG and utilize true 360-degree feedback to get real life examples of their strengths and weaknesses. What your boss thinks of you is important, but I would argue what your staff identifies as your weaknesses is much more valuable to you as a leader in the long run.


[1] Lublin, Joaan, Transparency Pays off in 360-Degree Reviews, The Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2011

Morale in the Workplace

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Improving morale in the workplace can be a daunting task for any manager. It has been shown that staff empowerment is one of the best ways to do this, but it cannot be done simply in the vacuum of empowerment. So what does motivate staff? MIT researchers found that allowing for creativity and free work-expression regardless of rewards is the best way to empower staff. In the study, when given monetary rewards for increased performance the higher the reward the worse the outcome. Seems weird right? Well, these researchers found that only non-skilled, low threshold tasks actually improved with more incentives (e.g., housekeeping). The more complex the task, the higher skilled the workforce, increased incentives for particular tasks caused performance to decreased measurably. This study was repeated in other countries and the results where the same. This research suggests that in order to improve performance, and motivating staff you need to pay them enough to not make money the issue. Once monetary gains are no longer the chief motivator, empowerment can lead to amazing things.

John Schaefer once wrote that there is an easy process to ensure you don’t kill morale in the workplace, or destroy what level of morale is left. Trust is very important. If they don’t trust you, or you don’t trust them, the organization is set-up to fail. You need to show your staff respect, at all times. Respect them both at a personal and professional level. Disagreements are fine, as long as they are handled in a professional way. As a manager, you need to nurture the staffs’ creativity (as stated above), not kill it with mundane tasks or policy driven busy work that doesn’t improve the organization. This is especially important in the higher-skilled work force. [1]

Why is this important though? Well, simply put empowerment leads to satisfaction, which in turn leads to improved morale. Giving your staff a true sense of ownership in not just the work they do, but also the organization they work in sits at the foundation of empowerment. This can be accomplished through simple open and honest staff / management communication, knowledge of the vision and future path of the organization, and treating all staff with dignity and respect. Empowerment comes from respect, value and appreciation at its core. A lack of these traits leads to poor morale that can be unrecoverable, however they alone will not lead to successfully improving the morale of the workplace.

We understand the importance of empowerment, but how do we get there? Aniko Czinege recommends a three-stage approach to improving morale, and empowerment can be seen in all three stages. Stage one is intuitive, simply listen and get feedback from your staff. Open, honest communication is key, stage two is just communication. Closed doors, non-answers, hyperbole, or rhetoric without foundation are killers to morale. Lastly, recognition of work well done,[2] here I am not talking a pat on the back or a free pizza. A negative attitude about the work product, constant criticism or harassment by management is poison in the workplace. It is true that poor performance needs to be addressed (this will be covered in an accountability piece coming soon); managers have to recognize the contribution of their staff as well. If all you here from the corporate offices is bad news, staff will come into work each day metaphorically covering their six.

OK, this may all seem like commonsense, but in many organizations staff members suffer from low workplace morale. They stay for many reasons; most recently the poor economy has made transitioning to a new organization difficult. Even for skilled works, job opportunities are few and the more specialized your industry, the fewer spots there are to transition. Poor staff morale cost organizations in a big way. Far beyond the in your face issue of bad attitudes, there is a financial cost that the organization will bare. According to Gallup, morale issues can cost an organization more the $760,000 / yr. in lost or decreased productivity, absenteeism, and poor customer satisfaction. [3]  Both front line managers, and those who sit in the c-suite can set the cornerstone for a great workplace for staff and management alike if they don’t forget about those who make the widget, drive the truck, push the cart, or clean your bathroom. Those line employees make your organization possible; they are people with feelings and emotions. Strive to keep their morale high, and they will improve your organization from its core. Kill their morale, and turnover, lost contracts, sick time, poor customer satisfaction and lost productivity may destroy the organization, and you along with it.


[1] Schaefer, John, The Root Causes of Low Employee Morale, The American Management Association: Articles & White Papers, Retrieved on July 12, 2013 from http://www.amanet.org/training/articles/The-Root-Causes-of-Low-Employee-Morale.aspx

[2] Czinege, Aniko, The Three-Stage Strategy to Improving Employee Morale, Melcrum – Connecting Communicators, Retrieved on July 11, 2013 from https://www.melcrum.com/research/engage-employees-strategy-and-change/three-stage-strategy-improving-employee-morale

[3] Fink, Nicole, The High Cost of Low Morale: How to Address Low Morale in the Workplace through Servant Leadership, The Leading Edge, Roberts Wesleyan College, Retrieved on July 10, 2013 from http://www.roberts.edu/Academics/AcademicDivisions/BusinessManagement/msl/Community/Journal/TheHighCostofLowMorale.htm

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