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What does it mean to be a ‘transformative leader?’

Transformational leaders believe in others, they are ‘value’ driven and they are on a life-long journey of learning. These leaders have a curious mindset and have the ability to deal with complexity and uncertainty.

The natural laws of growth provide us with an incremental approach to the development of personal and interpersonal effectiveness. Stephen Covey talks to us about the maturity continuum from independence to interdependence.

On the maturity continuum, dependence is the paradigm of ‘you’, and how you require others to get what you want. Just like a child is dependent on a parent, or at the start of a new job you are reliant on others to show you the way!

But there are some important distinctions to be made here. Independent is the paradigm of ‘I’ – where you are responsible and self-reliant, and hold the mindset that it only takes you to get the job done. Then there is the interdependent, which is the paradigm of ‘we’. In this mindset you collaborate, cooperate and you know as a leader you need a variety of talented individuals to get the job done to achieve success.

Transformative leaders take it one step further…

Transformative leadership embodies the spirit of interdependence – a reliance on a team of people who each bring their own unique gifts to the task, and a strong understanding that we can only achieve as a ‘whole’. There is power in numbers and there is synergy in the need of others to complete a project, we need diverse personality traits, we need the variety of experiences and talents, we need the different ideas to make anything stick for success. It’s all about collaborating with others and together we achieve more.

However, there is an unmistakable relationship between the traits of independence and interdependence … It’s important for leaders to embody both to some degree. Being independent means having the ability to care of oneself first, because it’s impossible to be of value to anyone, if you are not settled, grounded, and energised within yourself.

Leadership is more ‘being’ than doing…

From this point, a leader can take on the characteristics of an interdependent leader – making the time for meaningful conversations with your team, with the ability to be genuine, transparent and share your feelings in a professional way, to show others you are human just like them. An interdependent leader takes the view that everyone has the resources they need, and sees the potential in others to grow.

In my opinion interdependent leaders are hard to find. For the most part, this comes down to the highly competitive business world we operate in and a lack of ‘trust’ in one another. And trust is the basis of highly functioning teams. Without trust in, or tolerance for other people (recognising that we are all very different), then a leader tends to influence with power, rather than empathy and compassion. Once the circle of trust is broken it is hard to mend. Trust is like a piece of paper. Once it is crumbled and scrunched up, it can’t be perfectly straightened again.

Accept each other’s quirks with grace…

 Emotional intelligence is a key attribute as an interdependent leader. That is a skill in itself to understand and accept your own emotions, and in saying that, you may not be able to control all the events that happen to you, or the events that are coming at you. However, you can decide not to be reduced by them, nor let them control you. Daniel Goleman explains that our emotions have a mind of their own, one which can hold views quite independently of our rational mind. Daniel says “If you are tuned out of your own emotions, you will be poor at reading them in other people.”  And this is inherently true and something I witness time and again …. If you have no level of self-awareness, how can you influence when you have no idea of the impact your emotions have on others?

Just the other day a leader said to me “If I am in a bad mood, my team is in a bad mood, and so I make it my mission to be happy every day so I can influence my team.”

Accepting this and making a commitment to changing required a high level of awareness and humility… The leader took the feedback with a ‘listening’ mindset and took personal action. Now, that’s an interdependent leader’s attribute right there for you!

IQ gets you hired, EQ gets you promoted…

As individual leaders we strive to become ‘independent’ – to take care of ourselves but we also know that we need one another and vice versa as we are interdependent beings – the world only goes around with ‘synergy’ when we take care of each other. We are hardwired to connect, care, nurture and to belong to a community. That’s why interdependent leaders have a deeper understanding and appreciation of other human beings.

Transformative leaders know that first because they have to know how to transform themselves before they can lead a team, let alone an organisation, through change. And they do that through the willingness to always learn, to accept all responsibility and accountability for their team and organisation.

You don’t hear a transformative leader saying “It’s not my job!” They jump in regardless and roll up their sleeves, they look less for reasons ‘why’ a project has gone off-track and seek ‘how’ instead – driving solutions and rallying resources for an end goal, ensuring that they are 100% committed regardless of other people’s level of commitment.

I have a dream…

Having a vision of the future that inspires us, one that guides us all in the same direction is key to any organisation. Otherwise you have individuals going in all different directions.

People have long talked of the fact that workplace culture is key to this, and it is. But workplace culture starts with leadership. The only way to drive motivation is to engage your team – don’t simply mark-up the road map, telling them where to go, and when to be there. Explain the destination, clarify the ‘why’ and then share the end date, because some team members are driven by a deadline. Then… allow them to have input into devising the route and the navigation, and the ideas to bring it to life!

You’ll be surprised at the ideas and the energy, and momentum this can build.  When you set the vision and let your team to come up with the ‘how’, collaboration will ensue. This takes strategic planning. It also takes a tenacious leader who has the respect of a team and can trust that they’re all committed to the result.

Courage is what it takes to stand up and be different…

It takes courage to ask others how are we going to get there because our old way of thinking is if we are in a leadership role, we should know and we are going to get our team on board. But this is such an outdated way of thinking! At our very core, people want to work together, we want to help, we want to be of service. It’s the human way. But in order to garner this very core quality for people – accepting that there’s likely to be a bit of ‘What’s in it for me?’ along the way, you need to lead by example, and be of service to your team.

You also need to step into an ‘abundance’ mindset – the idea that there are infinite possibilities and the sheer talent and skills on your team will show you the way. You must also build effective partnerships and relationships – this begins with a genuine desire to ‘listen’ and ‘understand’ the other person’s situation and points of view at all times. Keeping positive, and coaching everyone towards the end goal.