What is transformational leadership?

First published in The Border Mail  on 25-05-20

We need transformational leaders now more than ever. If there is anything that the recent events around the world have taught us, it’s that adaptability is crucial to the survival of human race. Change is inevitable and we need to embrace it in order to move forward. Whether that’s around the world, in our personal lives or in our careers and education. The years old leadership mantra of problem solvers has been altered to transformational leadership.

You are not a leader just because you landed a managerial position because you were the last one left in that company or department, or because you knew someone who hired you to lead a team. You are a true leader only if you empower your teammates. If you call for change. Change that leads to progress. Change for the better. Change in beliefs and mindsets. Change in culture. That’s what a transformational leader does. He initiates innovation.

Conventional leaders aka our problem solvers are born with the mindset to avoid conflict. As their motto is to solve problems, that’s all they look for. They find issues and solve them. But they are short sighted and narrowly focused. Their solutions are short term. In their quest to solve one problem after the other, they only notice the individuals who are either directly or indirectly involved in these problems. They never bother to take out time to appreciate those who are doing well. They never bother to find out what is leading to these individuals’ success. Thus, the successful, good labour force is never appreciated and loses the motivation to stay on course. This is how conventional leaders hinder progress.

Rewarding good work raises competition. With competition comes envy. Envy leads to conflict. Thus, our problem solvers avoid the whole process and plummet the overall efficiency of the organisation. As hierarchies are made up of such leaders, organisations lose financial capital. Some fall more rapidly than others depending on the amount of pressure they can sustain, eventually affecting that area’s and then the country’s economy.

In these trying times, we need transformational leaders more than ever. They are courageous and brave. They are passionate about what they do. They don’t find problems. They find purpose. They set goals and achieve them. They are motivated by intrinsic factors rather than extrinsic ones. This plays out in their favour and their passion and honesty leads them to success sooner or later. They are the true leaders of our society. They trigger evolution, whether that’s with in a small organisation or in a system or in a country or worldwide. They empower those who work for them. They appreciate effort and smart work. They do not avoid conflict. Instead, they use it to lead change and progress. They welcome new ideas. They are not threatened by extraordinary people. They hire them and encourage them. They are great at developing honest and loyal relationships that help them create the change they desire.

Conventional leaders find it hard to take a stand. Even its about sending a strong message about the problem they solved so that the mistake is never made again. For them, it all comes down to avoiding the conflict. They are sweet. They reduce stress - whether that’s theirs or their employees - by lowering expectations. Low expectations lead to mediocre outcomes. Thus, the most a conventional leader can achieve is equilibrium.

Our transformational leaders are everything that conventional leaders are not. They break the code. Research shows that they are paradoxical. They cross categories. They are creative and structured. They are disciplined and flexible. They are tough and soft. They change course and improvise as the situation demands. They integrate categories. They don’t create boxes. They have an orientation towards achievement. They are bilingual or multilingual. They are cognitively and emotionally complex as they grow.  They are extraordinary!

They are growth fanatics. Their sole purpose is growth. Hence, they create healthy competition and use it to create a culture of learning. They raise the bar and challenge those around them to stretch themselves. This results not just in the involved professionals’ growth but the overall progress of the organisation.

Anyone can be a transformational leader. All we need to do is to dig out our purpose in life. Once we find our passion, we can work towards our goal with a mindset to learn and innovate. The essence of any leadership is to find the purpose. Develop a connection with those around you. Pull them into your purpose and lead positive progressive change.

About the writer... 

Ayesha is a Career Development Consultant who has two gifted children. She is a professional member of the Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA). She has a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering, Graduate Certificate in Careers Education and Development (RMIT) and Certificate of Gifted Education (UNSW). She also holds a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and Certificate of Fashion Illustration. 

She worked for a multinational engineering manufacturing industry before switching to career counselling, writing, teaching and case management.  She has worked in the British and American schooling systems and is now working with the Victorian Selected Entry and Regional Schools. Her diverse experience of working around the globe in the education and corporate sector and strong academic background enables her to see the bigger picture.