Transformational Leadership


“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Leading others is difficult because people are different. Each person has their own unique interests, concerns, and background that requires special attention and focus on the part of the leader.

There is no program that will change people’s behavior. People must be inspired to change their own behaviors. Leaders can inspire that change by adopting a transformational leadership style. Transformational leaders are innovative, flexible, adaptable, and continually improve those around them. They experiment and take risks. And because they know that risk taking involves mistakes and failures, they accept the inevitable disappointments as learning opportunities.

So, how do you become a transformational leader?

Transformational leadership starts with the development of a vision — a view of the future that will excite followers. You, as the leader, must buy into it. Hook, line, and sinker.

The next step (which in fact never stops) is to constantly champion the vision. This takes energy and commitment, as few people will immediately buy into an extreme vision. And some will join in much slower than others. The transformational leader must take every opportunity and use whatever works to convince others to climb on board.

To create followers, a transformational leader must be very careful in creating trust, and their personal integrity is a critical part of the package they are selling. In effect, they are selling themselves as well as the vision. People do not just follow anyone. You cannot just say “follow me” and expect people to follow out of the goodness of their hearts. You must give them good reason to follow.

Having a vision is not enough – you must be able to win commitment to the vision.

In the workplace, the leaders you remember are those who win your commitment. How do they do that? Is it just charisma, or do they have some secret technique for winning people over? Surprisingly, charisma is not considered an essential leadership quality. Charismatic business leaders were found to be no more likely to be successful than uncharismatic ones. You must be willing to get to know people as individuals, and to show that you know what makes them tick.

Effective transformational leaders have a clear set of ethical values and beliefs and live by them. Not living by a strong set of ethical values and beliefs will erode the confidence others have in the company.

A clear vision guides the transformational leader. Finding the way forward can be an ongoing process of course correction, and the transformational leader will accept that there will be failures and blind canyons along the way. If transformational leaders feel progress is being made, they are comfortable, for they know they are on the right track.

The next stage is to remain upfront and central during the action. Transformational leaders are always visible and will stand up to be counted rather than hide behind their troops. They demonstrate by their attitudes and actions how everyone else should behave. They also make continued efforts to motivate and rally their followers, constantly doing the rounds, listening, soothing and enthusing. It is their commitment as much as anything else that keeps people going — particularly through the darker times when some may question whether the vision can ever be achieved.

Transformational leaders ensure the execution of a plan. There are positive results from the work that is done that makes a significant difference. When you think of transformational leaders in our history, the results of their leadership are evident.

Sabrina is a certified consultant, coach, facilitator, & bestselling author that helps nonprofits and small businesses build relationships that increase revenue. She provides workplace training, including How to Build a Superior Work Team, Creating A Conducive Workplace, Overcoming Negativity in the Workplace, and Leadership, Board, & Strategic Planning Retreats.

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Sabrina Walker Hernandez