3.10 Transformational Leadership
EGL Newsletter Volume 3.10
One of the most commonly discussed items is the way a leader can create transformation in an organization. We often distinguish between transformational and transactional as a way of clarifying how a leader’s focus impacts the people in the organization. It is one of the most misunderstood areas that I have experienced.
I have seen extensive literature on behaviors, in particular those behaviors that can lead to a transformational style. There is more to this than just behavior. What I have found most significant is how the leader chooses to engage the organization and the areas in which the majority of time is spent. Behaviors matter, but tend to only be truly powerful when coupled with a clear intention and focus.
Continuing to use the Organization Wheel, this illustrates the difference between the two approaches. If you look at leadership as focusing energy across the wheel, transactional leadership spends time focusing on connecting the processes and the reflection systems of the organization. A leader here will spend their time discussing process plans, metrics, performance reviews, rewards and recognition, and other items that fall into the East and West of the wheel. They will also spend in the North and South, but that will be a significantly lower percentage of their time in these areas. You will also see them talk about those areas in terms of their processes and reflective systems.
A Transformational Leader, on the other hand, will spend their time between the North and the South of the wheel, constantly connecting the people in the organization with the Mission and Vision of the north. They will use their own presence to support inspired action among the people of the organization. This in turn will create tension on the current processes and will show up in the reflective systems of the west. The Transformational Leader will support people in challenging the status quo and will provide support and encouragement in helping them practice new behaviors aligned with the vision. Again, the Transformational Leader will also spend time with the East and West, but it will be significantly less time and will be grounded in supporting the employees to challenge that system.