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Leadership to Transform to achieve Excellence Moid Siddiqui,
Managing Director,
Intellects Biz

The word ‘Transformational Leadership’ was first time used by James MacGregor  Burns in 1978 in his analysis of political leaders. He used two terms ‘Transactional’ and ‘Transformational’ Leadership, and made a difference between these two types of leadership. Since then usage of these two types of leadership is in currency. Later, Bernard M, Bass and Bruce Avolio did some empirical studies and designed some specific characteristics for Transformational Leadership. 

The following three important human tendencies make transformational leadership characteristics:

  • People will follow a person who inspires them.
  • A person with vision and passion can achieve great things.
  • The way to get things done is by injecting enthusiasm and energy.

Thus, a transformational leader must be capable to inject enthusiasm and energy in his people. He must guide his people and show the direction, which is possible only when the leader is a visionary. And above all, he should have the charisma to inspire his followers.

The followers feel that working for a Transformational Leader is wonderful and uplifting experience. Such leaders put passion and energy into everything, including in people. They care about people and want them to succeed.

1. They develop a Vision: The Transformational Leadership starts with development of Vision, a view of the future that will excite and cover potential followers. The leader should develop the vision. But he can take support of his people to get it honed up.

2. They share and Sell the Vision: The leader must share his vision with his people to get support form them. For this he must be able to ‘Sell’ his vision, and his people must buy the idea.  The selling part never stops; the leader has to constantly sell the vision. This takes energy and commitment, as only a few people will immediately buy into a radical vision, and some will join the show much more slowly than others. The Transformational Leader thus takes every opportunity and will use whatever works to convince others to climb on board the bandwagon.

3. They Build Trust and Credibility:  In order to create followers, the Transformational Leader has to be very careful in creating trust, and their personal integrity is a critical part of the package that they are selling. In effect, they are selling themselves as well as the vision.

4, They Find the Way forwards: In parallel with the selling activity is seeking the way forward. Some Transformational Leaders know the way, and simply want others to follow them. Others do not have a ready strategy, but will happily lead the exploration of possible routes to the Promised Land.

The route forwards may not be obvious and may not be plotted in details, but with a clear vision, the direction will always be known. Thus 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. As long as they feel progress is being made, they will be happy.

5. They ‘Take Charge’: The leader must take charge and call the shots. He can as well empower his followers by giving them clear guidance and full support, yet he is readily available to help them when they go astray from the desired path.  The final stage is to remain up-front and central during the action. Transformational Leaders are always visible and will stand up to be counted rather than hide behind their people. They show 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.

6. They are Good Listeners: The Transformational leaders are good listeners – they talk less; listen more. They are ‘whole body listeners’, which is the highest quality of listening.

7. They Inject Enthusiasm: The Transformational leader creates excitement and enthuses his people. It is his unswerving 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. If the people do not believe that he can succeed and the followers lose confidence, then his efforts will go waste. The Transformational Leader seeks to infect and re-infect his followers with a high level of commitment to the vision.

8. They Celebrate Success of their people: One of the methods the Transformational Leader uses to sustain motivation is in the use of ceremonies, rituals and other cultural symbolism. Small changes get big hurrahs, pumping up their significance as indicators of real progress. He pats his people and brings them into spotlight, whenever they achieve or even get a minor success. 

9. They are ‘People Oriented’: Overall, Transformational leaders balance their attention between action that creates progress and the mental state of their followers. Perhaps more than other approaches, they are people-oriented and believe that success comes first and last through deep and sustained commitment.

10. They Transform People: While the Transformational Leader seeks overtly to transform the organization, there is also a tacit promise to followers that they also will be transformed in some way, perhaps to be more like this amazing leader. In some respects, then, the followers are the product of the transformation.

11. They are Charismatic Leaders: Transformational Leaders are often charismatic, but are not as narcissistic as pure Charismatic Leaders, who succeed through a belief in themselves rather than a belief in others. This way they are different than many stereotype charismatic leaders.

A critical view for Transformational Leadership: One of the traps of Transformational Leadership is that passion and confidence can easily be mistaken for truth and reality. Whilst it is true that great things have been achieved through enthusiastic leadership, it is also true that many passionate people have led the charge right over the cliff and into a bottomless chasm. Just because someone believes they are right, it does not mean they are right.

Paradoxically, the energy that gets people going can also cause them to give up. Transformational Leaders often have large amounts of enthusiasm, which, if relentlessly applied, can wear out their followers.

Transformational Leaders also tend to see the big picture, but not the details, where the devil often lurks. If they do not have the right people to take care of this level of information, then they are usually doomed to fail.

Finally, Transformational Leaders, by definition, seek to transform. When the organization does not need transformation and people are happy as they are, then such a leader will be frustrated. Like wartime leaders, however, given the right situation they come into their own and can be personally responsible for saving entire companies.

Transformational leaders can play miracle only when the organizations and people need such miracles. They must appear and take charge at the ‘right time’. As Lao Tzu – the Old Master – said more than 2500 years ago: “In perfect darkness appear the glow-worms!” So, when the organization and people need transformation appear the leaders with their ‘transformational’ leadership qualities.


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