To Find Transformational Leaders, Transform The Way You Think About Leadership

# To Find Transformational Leaders, Transform The Way You Think About Leadership

Proven. Experienced. Hard-nosed. Decisive. Direct. Demanding. Fearless. Those are the words I’ve heard others use to describe their idea of a transformational leader. Often when an organization is broken, we are quick to look for people who are willing and have proven themselves to lead an organization to success. While that’s highly commendable, I beg to differ in that it’s not the only considerations that should be given when searching for a true transformational leader.

When we examine the practices of those we see as having the ability to successfully lead, it’s important to note the contributing factors that played a vital role in their success. Simply put, having been successful once, doesn’t make you a transformational leader. In fact, it’s not about having been successful multiple times or even experienced. There are, at least in my mind, some key considerations that should be taken into account when selecting a leader to transform a broken, perhaps disjointed, maybe dysfunctional organization whole and thriving again.

Consideration 1: Prior success does not guarantee future success.

It’s critically essential to identify the context and circumstances under which that person was successful as a leader and to determine if the troubled context and circumstances align with the leadership opportunity before them. In other words, consider the resources, tools, support structures, etc. that were present and/or contributed to the leader’s success. A simple example would be that being proficient at playing basketball doesn’t make you a star tennis player. The context is different. The objective of the game is different. The tools are different. The support needed to improve your game is different. The way you win is different. It’s the context of how your athleticism is used that makes you successful. Context matters. Don’t ignore it.

Consideration #2. It is not enough to be eager. It is not enough to be equipped. You must be both.

In considering folks for transformational leadership opportunities we are often in a place where we perceive the ideal candidate as one or the other. We tend to think, “This is so difficult that it will require a person who has a deep desire to be here”. We give credence to the need for a will to be present over the need for the skills, practices, and behaviors that are needed to truly transform what is said to be broken. On the other hand, it is not uncommon to hear folks express that because the organization is so broken the anticipated leader must be highly skilled. Their ability to do the job is ultra important. I contend that you must have both if you wish to be a transformational leader. You must be eager and you must also be equipped. One without the other is too one dimensional to really make a difference in what it is you are trying to change. The complexity of the situation or organization you are trying to transform also requires a complex skill set. We do no justice to the job of transformational leadership by boiling it down or characterizing it in a single-handed manner.


Consideration #3: In a situation of transformational leadership, some skills matter more than others.

It’s no secret that leadership involves the ability to use multiple skills given the context of a situation. While some situations may call for the leader to execute stellar emotional intelligence, other situations may require a more technical skill set. At any rate, transformational leaders are different in that they are able to recognize and prioritize the skill set most needed to bring success back to the organization. They don’t see themselves as having to be highly skilled in everything all the time. Instead, they are able to determine which skill they need to highlight to move the organization forward, and that changes given the context, circumstances, tools, and resources available.  For example, a staff that has had a high degree of turnover at the leadership level requires a great deal of more emotional security than a staff who’s had relative stability in leadership. This means that the leader must be keen in the area of emotional intelligence at the onset of becoming the leader. He or she must pay close attention to the emotional needs of those members, and quickly capitalize on building trust.  In this given context, building trust is more imperative than technical ability. Once trust is present, the leader can then focus on ensuring that he or she is modeling the technical ability needed to change outcomes, and influencing the improvement and talent of those who do the work on the ground level.

What seems to impair our ability to identify transformational leaders is that we tend to generalize leadership. Leadership isn’t general at all in my opinion. In fact, how you lead and why you lead, is extremely contextual. If we can give consideration to these elements mentioned here, we can improve our ability to identify and select transformational leaders who can truly change what is broken.

Until next time-be you, be true, be a hope builder!


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