Transformational leadership

Transformational leadership

For me, the greatest challenge of entrepreneurship or of creating a business, is finding the right people on my journey and keeping the motivated, happy and aligned with the company’s goals. Most of the traditions or customs that I have developed, are learned by observation, by anectodes from others and by my own experience. Like any other startup, we started of being 3 people: Friends, all crazy about the same idea and obsessed with achieving it. As the complexity grew (more markets, new products), we needed to reenforce our team with new people.

Recruiting was a challenge, but what I find even more difficult is motivation once everybody is on board. How do I get everybody to see the same picture and aim for the same vision? It’s a topic thoroughly discussed in forums like quora, in blogs by famous leaders and in business aka self-help books. I talked to a lot of peers about it and sought help in older colleagues or mentor as some people might call them. All the descriptions I have been told, go in the direction of what has been called “Transformational Leadership” by J.M. Burns. It is an approach to leadership that aims to evoke trust, respect, loyalty and admiration.

Leadership over human beings is exercised when persons with certain motives and purposes mobilize, in competition or conflict with others, institutional, political, psychological, and other resources so as to arouse, engage, and satisfy the motives of followers… in order to realize goals mutually held by both leaders and followers….

by J.M. Burns on Leadership

J.M. Burns is a historian and political scientist, but has mostly earned his fame through his studies of leadership styles. In his book on Leadership (1978), he explains the basic idea of leadership that is summed up in power, purpose and relationship and he presents two types of leadership: one focussed on the relationship between leader and follower (Transactional approach) and the other focussed on the needs and values of the followers (by the leaders) (Transformational approach). He describes the latter as follows:

Transformational leadership occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality.
by J.M. Burns on Leadership

A leadership that evokes trust, respect and loyalty sounds pretty interesting! Reading further about it, it gave me the feeling of becoming a role model and acting just like you would like see others. To become a transformational leader you envision the goal you’ve set for the organisation and you act upon it. And J.M. Burns said it very similarly explaining that in order to become a transformational leader, you have to:

Be authentic and act as a role model living the goals, values and believes everyday.

Set clear goals and communicate them directly. Goals need to be attainable and transparent. Motivation comes from a clear understanding of the expectation and from reward: So cherish the success and celebrate all together. Show pride for you work!

Explain expectations clearly. And explain the consequences. Explain why something needs to be done and what would happen to the organization if this would not be achieved.

Create fair rules within the organisation. Everyone should have the same opportunities and nobody should stand at a vantage point (of information for example). Create an open, transparent and trusting organisation.

Offer all resources (like material, information, skills) needed for the success. Let others work independently and autonomously.

If you want to become a good leader you should listen with an open mind and without any judgement to everybody around you. Be accessible and curious about the proposals for improvements. As Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, another scientists, said it, “a good leader is often characterised by ambition, integrity, optimism and energy“. Do just that!

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