Transformational leadership sounds great in theory, but how does it work in practice? How can a leader or people manager actively engage in a set of actions or processes that will not only increase their influence but also help them become transformational? There are four components to bringing transformational leadership to life and making the most of your impact as a leader for cultural change.
Let’s take a look at each of the four areas and see what specific steps can be taken to help jump-start each process.
Part 1: Transforming Yourself
It all begins with the transformation of the leader. When a leader undergoes transformation, extraordinary things begin to unfold. When that number is multiplied, and one transformed leader becomes 10 or 20 transformed leaders, the organizational impact is even greater. The goal for any organization should be to keep increasing the number of transformed leaders.
When you see a leader who has a special way about them, such as how they communicate, inspire others or drive the business, often an internal transformation of some sort has occurred before there were visible external results. The goal is to keep raising that number, depending on the size of the organization.
This is because, at its core, leadership is a transfer of impact. The more that a leader is influenced and changed in their own life, the greater their impact and influence is on others.
There are countless ways for leaders to become transformed, and what works for one leader may not work for another. However, for one to be transformed, there does not need to be a life-changing event or a catastrophic failure. It’s easy to think of transformation as an all-out effort, but it all begins with making the right next move with intentionality. Transformation is an evolutionary process. The path starts with a relentless pursuit to grow and become a better version of yourself, consistently pressing outside of your comfort zone and learning more about your own unique strengths.
Part 2: Transforming Others
When a leader makes a firm commitment to grow and develop on a continuous basis, not only does their leadership effectiveness improve, but so does their ability to influence and transform others. The most effective leaders do not view transforming others as a separate objective from their daily responsibilities. Since they have done the work on themselves and are advocates for practicing what they preach, teaching and coaching others to do the same become second nature.
A critical component of transforming others is understanding that everyone you lead or work with has a unique set of strengths and is challenged in different ways. This is important to remember because, far too often, leaders and people managers will take a one-size-fits-all approach, which is no longer acceptable. Advancing into the future and leading effectively through change require an acute understanding of your team members’ most pressing needs and then determining the best way to meet those needs.
The true value of getting to know team members on a deeper level in relation to transformation is that if you don’t understand what’s important to them, inspiring and moving them becomes extremely difficult. Leaders will never be able to transform everyone in the organization, but it’s critical for those who are halfway in and halfway out to connect the organizational purpose to their own. To do this, you must know not only what the team member’s professional goals and aspirations are, but also what their personal goals and aspirations are.
Part 3: Transforming the Culture
When an organization’s leaders are committed to growing and transforming themselves, as well as regularly transforming others, it has a direct impact on — and begins to transform — the company’s culture. A transformed culture is the result of transformed people who routinely transform others. As previously stated, leaders will never be able to obtain complete and total buy-in when attempting to build a stronger and better culture.
Given that culture is defined by what an organization repeatedly does daily, cultural transformation occurs when one more individual transforms their behavior to align with the culture. Each person who changes their behavior adds to the total number of people who have altered their behavior in a month. The more that number rises each month, the more cultural growth and change become apparent.
Sometimes, when an organization lays out a bold plan to change or transform their culture, it can overwhelm leaders, given their current workload. A simpler and more effective way to think about it is to consider assisting one member of your team who hasn’t quite made the shift yet in making the desired change. Not only does this alleviate pressure, but it also connects leaders to the daily process of taking one small step in the right direction. Not only can this mindset pay huge dividends, but when all leaders and people managers adopt a similar mindset, the results can be transformative.
Part 4: Transforming the Organization
Organizational performance is transformed when leaders transform themselves and others, which directly influences cultural transformation. All four parts of the framework for bringing transformational leadership to life are critical to driving cultural success. The four parts are intertwined and linked. They all feed off one another, and when one is missing or deficient, it makes it more difficult to excel in another.
Transformational leaders elevate a shared purpose toward driving total organizational growth, even if they oversee a specific division or function of the business. Everyone benefits in some way when the company becomes more successful and grows. Transformational leaders want their direct teams to succeed and set an example for all other teams, but the company’s success is the most important thing to them. This necessitates a consistent focus on eliminating bureaucratic tendencies and silos that prevent cross-functional collaboration. When leaders concentrate on improving and excelling in these four areas, the path to becoming a transformational leader becomes not only more attainable but also more impactful.