4 Characteristics Of A Transformational Leader - FocusU

4 Characteristics Of A Transformational Leader

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In the post-pandemic era, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit will reign supreme. Not only individual leaders but rather, organisations across the board will have to step up their game. But, how can traditional organisations bring about such extensive radical changes effectively? The answer lies in a threefold approach –

Developing an irrefutable sense of higher purpose for both the organisation and individual team members; and taking guided strategic decisions and implementing practices in accordance with the defined purpose. This further requires a core repositioning of business model, and creating new avenues. And transformations like these require leaders need to take charge and accommodate unpredictable variables like the ever changing market conditions and customer needs and preferences.

The question that begs itself is –

What defines a transformational leader?

What separates great leaders from good leaders can be quantified as leadership acumen, or leadership qualities. And, regardless of the situation faced, these very qualities determine the success of a leader, and often, their teams. So, when it comes to showcasing transformational leadership in the face of adverse and unpredictable waves in the form of market conditions, a leader needs to use their individual values and characteristics as anchor to enable smooth sailing for their entire teams.

What the pandemic has done, is bring about a revolution most of the leaders weren’t prepared for. The increased dependence on technology for even getting the bare minimum done has forced leaders to not just think, but live outside the box. It has forced leaders to ask strategic questions and implement new business models in accordance to the changing client demands.

Furthermore, stakeholders across the board – from employees, customers, and even investors also expect companies to show accountability towards tackling systematic issues, such as climate change and social inequality, while also remaining profitability. Team members dealing with trauma, burn out, and other pandemic induced issues expect to use flexible working practices. They also want to work for leaders that are not only successful, but are also inspirational and compassionate.

Thus, transformation on this scale, often need to be spear-headed by the leader. It requires concrete changes ranging from the acquisitions, disposals, and structural re-design. These changes further require considerable technological and cultural changes that need to be initiated and maintained with a hawk eye. And these changes need to be backed by leaders who walk the talk. It’s only when leaders stay true to their word that their team feels inspired to fall in line.

How can leaders inspire and implement changes?

There are many ways for a leader to inspire and lead their teams towards transformational reforms. However, a strategic approach towards the said changes has time again proved effective in bringing about sustainable reforms. Let’s take a look at 4 effective strategies that can help you achieve the same –

1. Mind over matter

The first step towards transformation of any kind is getting in the right mindset. Leaders, especially, need to embrace out of box thinking and make decisions keeping the bigger picture in mind. Unpredictable market conditions, especially marred by unforeseen situations like a global pandemic can make this hard to achieve. And yet, leaders who take time to educate themselves and focus on understanding the changing trends can help their team turn a corner in time.

Organisational transformation requires teams and companies alike to transcend their current position, individual and collective performances, and also a dramatic shift in capability building. All of this further requires leaders to have the courage to take difficult decisions, develop visionary thinking, and the ability to tackle complex situations at the drop of a hat. What probably makes it hard is having to strike the balance between looking at the bigger picture while taking care of the minute details. A leader needs to be able to make short term decisions, while keeping long term results in mind. And, often times, leaders struggle with managing to do both, simultaneously, and effectively.

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So, how can a leader find the right balance?

When it comes to taking care of immediate problems, while keeping the long term goals in mind, there’s one method that has proven to be effective. Famously coined as listening to the ‘wise advocate,’ by Art Kleiner, Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, and Josie Thomson, it made its appearance in their best seller ‘How to Manage the Mind in Difficult Times.’

Essentially, this means taking a third person’s perspective. An effective way to weigh the pros- and cons- of any given situation is to distant yourself from it. Leaders, when tackling complex issues, should allow themselves to observe the situation from a third person’s point of view. When you are not in the centre of things, it becomes easier to take a more unbiased and practical step. It requires taking in consideration all the available information on the inside and deciding from the eyes of an outsider. Easier said than done, it requires leaders to tap into their integrity and intellect, and come up with solutions that are often, difficult to deliver and execute.

Things that can help a leader approach a situation this way can include –

  • Considering what the different stakeholders involved might be thinking and feeling. Often, customer needs may vary from what is being offered. And realising this fact can help you come up with more impactful and sustainable solutions.
  • Taking control of your own emotions and biases.
  • Taking care of your own health and well being. Only with a sound and healthy mind can a leader achieve impactful clarity and make effective decisions.

Having reached your decision, it is equally important to deliver and execute them effectively. Leaders need to explain and express their decision making process with clarity and transparency. It will allow your team to feel more confident in your leadership, meanwhile inspiring a culture of transparency within teams.

2. Live on the edge

Maintaining proximity with your client needs and expectations is the key to anticipating what the future holds. The pandemic has brought to surface the importance of staying ahead of the curve. Transformational leaders need to continuously be on their toes and anticipate the changing trends. Transformations often, if not always, work their way inside out.

The ideation and strategy making needs to be done by the leader and their boards. They then need to explore the existing trends, intimate stakeholder conversations, and assess the effectiveness of their plans. Multiple re-iterations and conversations with the external and internal stakeholders are required to bring about impactful transformation on an organisational scale.

A caricature sounding structure it might be, but this approach not only allow leaders to stay ahead of the curve, but also allow space for radical changes to take place over time. And, in time.

There are many ways to approach this inside out method. The following tips can help you figure out where the weak links lie –

  • Encourage and ask questions. Make sure that your stakeholders feel welcomed in giving their honest opinions and suggestions.
  • Deploy mechanism that allow you to systematically solicit views across the organisational chain of command.
  • Use effective tools to sense, collate, analyse, and even visualise the data collected.
  • Encourage healthy and intense organisational conversations. If possible, develop and maintain strategic opportunists for your team to engage in conversations cantered around topics like – ‘What’s next?’ Or ‘What should our collective approach be?’ Such conversations can effectively take the transformation from within the C-suite lobbies to every nook and corner of your organisation.
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3. Enable systematic leadership development

Transformation on an organisational scale can never be a one man job. As a leader, you will also need to enable and empower leaders across layers of your company. And they need to be prepped accordingly. From capability development to soft-skills training, they will require training at every stage.

The C-Suite is responsible for not only choosing the right leaders, but also ensuring that they are ready to take on their new roles. Leaders need to develop an internal system that’s lows them to monitor individual growth and potential closely, so as to make the right changes.

Given that any transformations change, on a large scale requires. Period span of f5 to 7 years, it is possible for senior leaders to choose the right middle management champions and empower them with the tools required for what lies ahead. Furthermore, it is equally important to decide who leads at what stage of the reformation. A few factors that can help you choose include –

  • Who inspires the trust of the most influential stakeholder groups?
  • Individual strengths and weaknesses
  • Inter-personal dynamics; Often, certain team members complement each other’s styles and skills better

More often than not, an ideal group would include both formal and informal leaders. Informal leaders are people, who despite not holding any position of power, are able to inspire and rally up their team members. They are trusted and respected by their peers and can help speed up the execution of transformational strategies.

Empowered leaders, empower people

Transformational leaders are not only the ones who talk big, and have big visions for just the organisation. For a leader to truly bring about radical transformation across the board, they need to work on inspiring and empowering every single person on the team. Individual learning journeys and growth are indispensable for an organisation to achieve the desired growth.

Leaders need to learn to relinquish control, and allow employees to get creative with their work. Instead of putting them in repetitive roles with fixed deliverables, encourage your team to explore unconventional solutions. When your team is allowed to express creativity and carve their own path, magic can happen.

Of course, a structure will still be needed to get the daily work done. But, this structure can be modified to remake space for creativity and innovation to flourish. Here are a few strategies to help break the monotony and inspire innovation –

  • Set and inspire a clear purpose for your teams to aim for
  • Lay down expectations related to performance, behaviour, and individual well-bring
  • Enable performance transparency across the board
  • Provide the required tools for effective execution of individual roles
  • Invest in individual development and skills development
  • Allow genuine autonomy to make decisions
  • Listen to and act on innovative suggestions

The post-pandemic world expects leaders to enable transformational reforms while staying true to traditional values. This is a time for leaders to prove their mettle and help teams achieve unconventional and unprecedented success. Thus, it is important for leaders to embrace their inner creativity and channel it to inspire, empower, and execute changes that transcend everything that has been done before.

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