The Type of Leadership Required For Transformation

Oftentimes the biggest obstacle to change is the leader her / himself. Yes, you are a blocker because you may not be up to the challenge to shift course for your company. For many, this is a hard pill to swallow because their ego will take a hit. I’ve heard it before, “I have loads of experience; I can’t fail”, “There’s a reason why we’ve gotten this far, we’ll double down on what we know and continue to succeed”.

Change is difficult because one of the greatest mistakes of successful people is the assumption, “I am successful. I behave this way. Therefore I am successful because I behave this way!” The challenge is to make them see that sometimes they are successful in spite of this behavior.

As a leader, specifically, the mistakes you’re making are:

  • Holding on to outdated beliefs;
  • Not developing yourself;
  • Not developing others;
  • Believing you have all the answers.

But as Marshall Goldsmith says, “what got you here won’t get you there”. The habits you’ve gained so far, which are often the habits that have brought you this success in your career, are now the same habits that are now delaying your progress. The real leadership challenge is to keep pushing when things are going great; not just when the sky is falling. And when I say pushing I mean not just working on what is but on what’s next.

This requires a different type of leadership. Not the type that celebrates the status quo, but that challenges it.

Leadership styles that drive transformation

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence wrote a book about leadership called Primal Leadership, where he examines the type of leadership that drives results. In this book he outlines 6 leadership styles:

Visionary Affiliative Democratic Coaching Pacesetting Commanding
The leader’s modus operandi Mobilises people toward a vision Creates harmony and builds emotional bonds Forges consensus through participation Developing people for the future Sets high standards for performance Demands immediate compliance
The style in a phrase “Come with me.” “People come first” “What do you think?” “Let’s look at ideas for you to decide which to try.” Do as I do, now.” “Do what I tell you”
Underlying emotional intelligence competencies Self-confidence, empathy, change catalyst Empathy, building relationships, communication Collaboration, team leadership, communication Developing others, empathy, self-awareness Conscientiousness, drive to achieve, initiative Drive to achieve, initiative, self-control
When the style works best When changes require a new vision, or when a clear direction is needed To heal rifts in a team or to motivate people during stressful circumstances To build buy-in or consensus, or to get input from valuable employees To help an employee improve performance or develop long-term strengths To get quick results from a highly motivated and competent team In a crisis, to kick start a turnaround, or with problem employees
Overall impact on climate Most strongly positive Positive Positive Positive Negative Negative

Leaders who are aiming to transform the organization must act as role models. They must embody the values that the followers should be learning and internalizing. They must lead from the front, inspire others and bring them together. They have to practice what they preach.

This transformational leadership embodies various leadership styles: visionary, affiliative, democratic and coaching.

Leaders who have never led this way are at a disadvamtage because they have depended on just one leadership style. For example, they will have a hard time transforming anything if they’ve exercised pacesetting and commaning leadership styles. They have to switch their habits and attitudes to influence, rather than push and coerce people; very hard to change this attitude unless the person is willing to do so.

This is where most leaders and their organizations fail because one should be aware of their specific leadership style and how it affects the organization. And if the leader is unwilling to change, then he / she must step aside and let someone who is take point.

Bottom line: One who leads the process of transformation must provide direction, present helping behaviors that shape the change and create capacity in people and the organization.

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