Leaders do not become leaders because of an election, title or job description. Some believe people are born natural leaders. Some people believe managers are leaders. These statements are far from the truth. People become leaders when they are accepted as leaders. The title “leader” is bestowed upon an individual–it must be earned. While some leaders seem to have a charismatic talent, most people become good leaders by trial and error.
What is transformational leadership?
There are eight key traits of transformational leaders share:
1) They have a clear mission. Good leaders have a defining mission in their life. This mission is called many things…a purpose, an obsession or a calling. Whatever it is called is unimportant. But what is important is this mission, above all other traits, separates managers from leaders. The movie Saving Pvt. Ryan clearly demonstrated this point. The Captain (Tom Hanks) was able to unite his men and create purpose toward their horrific mission to find and rescue Pvt. Ryan.
2) They create big ideas. Transformational leaders have big ideas and dare others to be great. Billy Payne ignited a vision in the hearts and minds of the people of Georgia and the world. His vision caught fire and brought the Centennial Olympics to Atlanta in 1996. Despite the many naysayers’ criticisms, it was one of the best games ever. When the games ended, Billy Payne said, “I am a nondescript, regular old person” who had an idea.’
3) They trust their people. A transformational leader is not a micro-manager. Responsibility is pushed down through the ranks to rely on the ideas and energies of the entire workforce. This delegation of authority requires employees have a voice in the decision-making process which magnifies the leaders’ ability to effectively lead others.
4) They keep their heads in a crisis. Leaders take a position and defend it when things go awry. Being graceful and brave under fire is the surest way to building credibility.
5) They encourage innovation. If an organization does not examine new ways of doing things, if it does not push out its boundaries, if it never makes mistakes they increase their chances of becoming obsolete. Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, has a nonconformist leadership philosophy. Herb feels everyone is a leader and he empowers people to make decisions. To fight bureaucratic rules and regulations, he pushes decision-making authority to the lowest possible level. As Herb says it, “We tell our people that we value inconsistency.”
6) They are experts. Good leaders are intimately familiar with their organization’s products and services. Nothing replaces experience on the front-line. All executives, managers and supervisors should spend time on the front-line finding out what is happening and prevents what keeps their workforce from doing their best. Again, it is a question of establishing credibility. People soon know when a superior is ‘winging it’ and they stop listening.
7) Transformational leaders know what is essential. Leaders have a remarkable ability to zero in on what is important. They can simplify complex problems elegantly without taking the easy way out.
8) They teach and mentor others. In this rapid changing environment, organizations must create a learning environment. The senior people must be teaching and training those who may soon replace them. We are not necessarily talking about formal classroom training. We need leaders talking to people in the hallway, on the loading dock . . . everywhere. Everyone should be mentoring someone.
Whether you call yourself CEO, president, leader, manager, elected official, religious leader or supervisor, we are expected to set the example for others. The needs of those we lead should come before OUR needs.
Greg Smith | Lead Navigator | 770-860-9464 | Chart Your Course International