A great leader is like a Captain who steers the ship toward new discoveries.
Yes, they guide, manage and organize. But a transformational leader also encourages and inspires.
What does it take to be a leader who is striving to make the world (not just work) a better place?
Let’s take a look.
1) You care about people, not just what they do for you
“It’s not personal it’s strictly business”
— Al Pacino, The Godfather
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of occasions I’ve tried to remind myself that business isn’t something personal.
But at the end of the day, actually, all business sort of is personal — because you are dealing with people.
What I mean by that is that we’re human beings and we need to be treated as such.
If you behave like people are just another commodity, how will they ever thrive?
Transformational leaders making the world a better place aren’t only concerned with what employees do, they care about their well-being too.
In fact, it has even been suggested that empathy is the most important skill of a leader.
Research has found empathy in the workplace is powerful and can:
- Increase innovation
- Increase employee engagement
- Improve employee retention
- Improve inclusivity
- Help employees juggle and balance work and home life more successfully.
It’s not all about the bottom line.
Treating people with respect, dignity, consideration, and care is how transformational leaders get the most out of employees.
Because the more contented you are at work, the more you are likely to achieve great things too.
2) You lead by example, and people look up to you because of it
A transformational leader will show rather than tell.
What does that mean?
In essence, it means you’re a good role model.
For example, if you want to promote creativity and independent thinking, you’ll make that clear by doing so yourself.
You’ll create, nurture and support the sort of working environment you’re striving through with your own actions and words.
Leaders who adopt a “do as I say, not do as I do” attitude rarely inspire.
It’s the leaders who are right there in the thick of it with you who have the biggest impact.
Of course, good leadership involves delegating. But that’s not about ditching the tasks that feel beneath you.
Transformational leaders do so from the front. They’re not dishing out all their dirty work to someone else.
They see themselves as part of the team rather than above it.
As we’ll see next, this can be the key to driving forward innovation…
3) You believe everyone has their part to play in innovation
By definition a leader is the person at the front who we follow, right?
Well, maybe not, it turns out.
Transformational leaders leave their egos at the door.
In fact, experts reckon the most transformational leaders invite others to co-create with them, rather than asking people to simply follow them.
After many years of research, business experts Linda A. Hill, Emily Tedards, Jason Wild, and Karl Weber wrote a book about strong leadership, called ‘Collective Genius’.
They discovered the most successful leaders took a shared approach to innovation.
As they explain in Harvard Business Review, being a leader is increasingly about encouraging collaboration:
“All the leaders in the book were visionaries who knew that innovation was rarely the result of an individual genius’s having an “aha” moment. Consequently, they adopted an inclusive definition of leadership and did all they could to democratize innovation.
“They believed that everybody had a “slice of genius” — their talents and passions — that could be unleashed and leveraged to develop innovative solutions to stakeholders’ pain points and ambitions.”
4) You’re a calculated risk taker
Some risks are reckless, others are necessary for growth.
A transformational leader knows the difference.
Taking a leap of faith is a part of progress after all. Plus, you have the ability to adapt when you need to change course thanks to your resilience.
Nevertheless, your ability to trust your gut instincts should never be underestimated.
Because at the end of the day “gut instincts” aren’t some sort of mystical sixth sense.
Instead, they are years of intricate experience.
And that experience that allows an inspirational leader to know when to gamble and when to play it safe is hard-earned.
As pointed out in Forbes:
“Intuition is big data for your body. It’s the result of your body’s own algorithms processing millions of data points that surround you every day. That’s why more than 40% of CEOs say they still make decisions based on intuition, despite having access to troves of empirical data.”
5) The buck stops with you
You’re the captain of your ship and you take all the necessary responsibility of being the person in charge.
You’re not looking for the nearest fall guy when something doesn’t pan out how you’d hoped.
If something doesn’t go right, you consider your role in that before dishing out blame elsewhere.
As we’ve already seen, truly transformational leaders are team players, even if they have a more senior role.
That means having plenty of accountability. Being able to shoulder responsibility takes a lot of integrity.
It also takes courage to press ahead with ideas when you know that you’re the one who has to assume ultimate responsibility for whatever happens next.
6) You encourage creative thinking
The motto of a transformational leader is to “think outside of the box”.
It’s not enough for you to stay open-minded. You need to have a gift for helping others do so too.
To get the best out of people, they need intellectual stimulation. That means being able to challenge assumptions and encouraging new thoughts.
Rather than continue to do things the same old way, transformational leaders are trailblazers.
They allow independence and autonomy as they realize this is essential to foster greater creativity.
Creativity doesn’t blossom when people are busy following instructions and simply doing as they are told.
That’s why encouraging creativity in the workplace also means being brave enough to allow people to learn from their mistakes.
Because the bottom line is that innovation is always going to struggle to take off under rigid and stifled work conditions.
7) You know (and can comfortably admit) both your strengths and weaknesses
Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is trying to appear superhuman.
But knowing your own strengths and weaknesses is important to success. Nobody is infallible. Even a leader needs support.
By knowing what you’re not so great at, you can develop a better strategy.
That’s why cultivating a deeper sense of self-awareness helps forge transformational leaders.
In fact, according to research self-awareness was rated as the most important capability for leaders to develop.
The evidence suggests that businesses that perform well tend to have employees with greater self-awareness. Meanwhile, when it’s lacking, the company’s finances will suffer because of it.
Being a self-aware leader means you most likely have good emotional intelligence.
These are empowering tools for any transformational leader as it helps you make better choices, as well as facilitate change and growth.
8) You have a talent for motivating others
The whole concept of transformational leadership was first developed by leadership expert James MacGregor Burns.
He said that transformational leadership can be seen when “leaders and followers make each other advance to a higher level of moral and motivation.”
As a transformational leader people under you want to do well and work hard because they respect you. They want to do you proud.
This is something that was highlighted by researcher Bernard M. Bass who later went on to take MacGregor Burns’s ideas on transformational leadership further.
He felt that a transformational leader was able to gain people’s trust, respect, and admiration.
Transformative leaders are unique as they raise standards by motivating people, rather than relying on the carrot and the stick approach —often known as transactional leadership.
As explained by educational consultant Kendra Cherry in Very Well Mind:
“In the transactional approach, leaders motivate their subordinates through the use of rewards and punishment. While the transformational approach focuses on communication, inspiration, and positive reinforcement, transactional leaders supervise, monitor performance, and create routines to maximize efficiency. While the transactional approach can be effective in some situations, it does not foster loyalty, innovation, or creativity.”
However you do it, if you’re a transformational leader you are able to inspire enthusiasm for shared common goals.
Your passion and motivation are contagious and you are able to bring this out in others.
9) Your communication skills are on point
Slick communication skills are an essential tool for any transformational leader.
We’re talking about:
- The ability to be authentic and sincere in your communication
- Being visible and seen as open to communicating
- Being able to successfully share ideas, stories, and conversations that inspire and motivate.
- Knowing how to resolve workplace conflict
If you’re a transformational leader people see you as genuine and approachable.
Your strong communication skills help everyone to stay on the same page, and working towards a common goal.
But it’s not just what you say, it’s also how well you listen too.
You’ve no doubt mastered active listening because you genuinely value what others have to say.
10) You’re always striving to keep an open mind in order to grow
You know what they say, if you’re not growing, you’re stagnating.
Even when you get to the top, it doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels.
Transformational leaders don’t sit back and admire their success, they look to their future.
They’re more concerned with the long-term.
That means constantly considering areas for their own personal growth and improvement too.
As they grow, they can pass those lessons, skills, and knowledge on to others.
Actively seeking growth opens you up to more opportunities, and you’re open to whatever direction those opportunities may come from.
Because you never know, the next one that comes your way might just be one that makes the world a better place.