Don Charlton

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Why Transformative Leadership Works

You’ve probably been reading lately about amazing transformative leaders, the real game-changers who create momentum and inspire emulation. They not only make the news by making a difference in the world, but they also run the types of companies that people line up to work for — the companies that make you think, “Wow, I would love to work there!” If that resonates with you, ask yourself this: What’s holding you back from being the kind of person who becomes the impetus for fundamental change, both in your company and outside of your business life?

Transformative leadership is popular for a reason. It costs very little, if anything, to implement because it is based on relationships and mutual respect between workers and managers — and it works. It makes life better inside an organization by increasing morale and productivity. And you know that when morale and productivity increase, they have a direct positive impact on a company’s bottom line. Further, the positive influence of this type of dynamic, people-focused leadership can have a ripple effect that, in some cases, spreads out to positively impact the community outside the organization. Here’s how to begin:

Tip # 1: Build a Relationship With Each Person

While a traditional, transactional leader uses authority to tell others what to do, a transformative leader leads, in a sense, without authority. While the leader obviously still has the authority to tell others what to do, he or she chooses instead to use relationship-building to guide and inspire the work efforts of others. This type of relationship-based management might initially sound too relaxed to be effective. In practice, however, leaders are discovering that it communicates faith and higher expectations to employees, who in return take ownership of their work and achieve more than originally expected.

Tip # 2: Communicate Responsibility Without Placing Blame

As a transformative leader providing one-on-one mentoring, you have to walk a fine line between encouraging risk-taking and problem-solving among your employees, and helping them take ownership of both mistakes and successes. And, you have to do all of this without letting the employee’s mistakes become a source of discouragement. When something doesn’t work out as planned, instead of focusing on who messed up, help your employees see where things went wrong. Then work with them to reframe problems and troubleshoot ways to prevent the same problems from recurring.

Tip # 3: Be Open to New Ideas and Ways of Completing Tasks

Guiding a group as a transformative leader is comparable to the process of holding a brainstorming session in which everyone involved shares ideas with no judgment or disqualification. In the second stage of brainstorming, ideas are then organized and discussed without the stress of trying to select one. Similarly, in transformative leadership, the leader mentors or coaches group members in the analysis and implementation of new ideas. It might feel very simplistic at first, possibly even too easy-going to be effective — but as the group adapts to the concept of working together to complete a task, with the leader providing individualized attention and coaching to each member of the group, the group can begin to pull together into a strong, cohesive and productive unit.

Putting traditional autocratic leadership styles in the past and learning to engage with your employees as a transformational leader creates an all-around winning situation. Inspiring, mentoring and guiding your employees can open new doors for them, and it can help your organization build or enhance its reputation as a great place to work while also increasing your company’s bottom line.


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