Technology and market innovations continue to disrupt the global economy, forcing companies to rethink how they organize their business, manage their workforce, and engage with customers. In order to confront and surmount these challenges, organizations must identify weaknesses and inefficiencies in their operations and implement changes quickly and effectively to stay competitive. Without visionary, transformational leadership, however, any effort to implement changes is likely doomed to failure.
Transformational leaders are able to facilitate change initiatives effectively, building consensus and achieving buy-in to ensure that transitions are carried out as smoothly as possible. Not every leader is well-suited to this task, however. Far from a caretaker of the status quo, transformational leaders need to develop and implement strategies that can push a company to where it needs to be for sustained success. These leaders tend to have a number of key qualities in common.
The Top 5 Qualities of a Transformational Leader
Transformational leaders may have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish, but they’re also humble enough to realize they don’t always have all the answers. They understand that listening is the foundation of many other leadership skills; it helps them better understand their teams and opens the door to productive collaboration. Effective leaders refine their active listening skills to both demonstrate attentiveness and avoid misunderstandings. Furthermore, when people feel like their concerns, feelings, and ideas are being genuinely heard and taken into consideration, they are more likely to be engaged and committed in their work. Given that high engagement is strongly connected to productivity and retention, listening skills are essential for any leader hoping to succeed in the long run.
In today’s fast-moving business environment, leaders need to be agile enough to identify changing dynamics and make rapid adjustments to overcome challenges without compromising strategic goals. They must have the situational awareness to understand how external and internal events, such as shifts in the market or an administrative shake-up, might impact an organization’s performance. When changes require them to act, they need to know how systems within a company interact with each other so their solutions don’t end up creating more problems than they solve. Prioritization can help leaders be more adaptable because it helps them manage multiple needs, which may even conflict, while still keeping larger organizational goals in sight.
Truly transformational leaders find ways to inspire, creating an enthusiasm and passion that causes others to aspire for better performance and effort. When employees are inspired, they’re more likely to be highly engaged, which in turn leads to lower rates of absenteeism, higher productivity, and diminished turnover. Inspirational leaders are effective at creating a sense of purpose for their teams. They communicate goals and challenge employees in ways that make people want to rise up to meet, or exceed, expectations. Their combination of emotional appeals and active communication helps these leaders to get to know their team members and better understand how to motivate them. By aligning strategic goals with people’s pre-existing values, transformational leaders can create a work environment in which everyone understands why their role is vital to the organization’s success.
Few things undermine a leader faster than deflecting blame and refusing to take accountability for their actions. Employees need to know that a leader is not only willing to hold themselves responsible for outcomes, but will follow through on the commitments they make. When leaders hold themselves accountable, they communicate that accomplishing the team’s collective goals is their highest priority, not fulfilling some personal agenda. This also sets a strong example for employees, encouraging them to accept the same degree of accountability in their work. Building an organizational culture that emphasizes accountability helps to lay the groundwork for a workplace that thrives on communication, trust, and consistent engagement.
Leaders who struggle to build trust, loyalty, and support will find it almost impossible to succeed. Effective leaders must demonstrate that they are honest, ethical, and worthy of trust. They can build this reputation by keeping promises and honoring commitments while setting an example for behavior that is in keeping with the organization’s stated values. Employees need to know a leader is credible and willing to “speak the truth.” When leaders are able to build trust in their teams, they’re better able to secure commitment and buy-in from people on important initiatives that are needed to drive organizational change.
With today’s complex and competitive business environment challenging companies like never before, there is a huge demand for truly transformational leadership. Unfortunately, not all leaders are equipped to deal with the obstacles before them. In order to find enduring success, companies must continue to focus on instituting development strategies that allow them to identify and prepare high-potential employees who can step into leadership roles when the time comes. Simply perpetuating the status quo will no longer be enough.
Watch the free webinar What Makes Great Transformational Leadership? This webinar is based on the HRDQ product, Transformational Leader, and was presented by Rick Lepsinger, President of OnPoint Consulting. Rick’s career has focused on helping organizations and leaders identify and develop leaders, work better virtually, enhance cross functional team performance, and get from strategy to execution faster. He conducts numerous seminars and workshops on succession management, leading from a distance, leading cross functional teams, and enhancing execution. Rick has written numerous articles and is the author or co-author of several books, including his most recent Closing the Execution Gap: How Great Leaders and Their Companies Get Results.