Priority #2: Transformational Leadership and Organizational Transformation

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Photo Credit: Butterfly, by David Yu, Flickr

I’m in a mini-series sharing my 4 Top Leadership Priorities. These priorities are central to what I teach others about leadership in classes, and these priorities inform how I want to lead personally.

Last week I settled in on the first priority: Servant Leadership and Follower Focus. This week I’ll settle in on the second priority: Transformational Leadership and Organizational Transformation.

A Commitment to Transformation

Complementing the follower-focus of servant leadership, transformational leadership is about creating broad and intrinsic ownership of the organization’s mission by leaders and followers alike. Such ownership happens as leaders and followers together mutually value and commit to transformation.

Although this commitment to transformation has significant organizational implications, I argue, particularly from a biblical perspective, that transformation of teams and organizations finds its roots in individual and personal transformation. If I want to lead an organization in a transformational journey, I must being willing to engage a process of transformation myself.

Presenting a vision for personal and spiritual transformation, Paul in the Bible wrote:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18

Much can be said about this verse and the surrounding arguments in 2 Corinthians, but the main point I want to make is that a commitment to personal transformation into Christ-like character is a deeply biblical and Christian concept. From such personal transformation springs forth transformation and other levels of life and leadership.

A Commitment to Transformation
is a Commitment to Ongoing Growth

At both the individual and organizational level, a commitment to transformation and change really comes down to a commitment to ongoing growth. While other forms of leadership may be content with a status-quo approach to maintain at minimal levels, transformational leadership is about raising one another’s aspirations—leaders and followers alike—to higher levels of impact and opportunity to serve.

There certainly are appropriate cautions that could be raised at this point. Focusing on growth toward higher levels of impact and opportunity to serve could be more about vain ambition than it is about the priority of serving others discussed in the last post. This is why beginning with personal transformation before organizational transformation is so important. We need to pay attention to the motives behind a desire for greater impact and service.

However, if we are actively paying attention and guarding against the negative dimensions of ambition, the pursuit of growth personally and organizationally often leads to significant health—both personally and organizationally. Pursuing transformation and change is really about maintaining on open posture towards growth. It is about maintaining a commitment to ongoing and life-long learning.

Creating Owners of the Organizational Mission

As a formal discipline of study, transformational leadership emphasizes need for leaders and followers alike to own the organizational mission. Other forms of may be content with autocrats dictating to others what needs to be done, but transformational leadership at its core is about engaging leaders and followers in what they want to do, not just what they have to do.

Transactional and autocratic forms of leadership are primarily based on a leader-follower exchange that incentivizes followers through extrinsic motivators. In contrast, transformational leadership is based on a leader-follower engagement that motivates followers intrinsically. Transformational leadership is about engaging followers in such a way that leaders and followers are mutually committed to the organization’s mission and are willing to undergo transformational change with organizational goals in view.

Francis Yammarino puts is this way:

“The transformational leader arouses heightened awareness and interests in the group or organization, increases confidence, and moves followers gradually from concerns for existence to concerns for achievement and growth.”

Rather than lining up willing renters in the cause of the organization’s vital mission, transformational leadership is all about lining up willing owners of the organization’s mission. People become owners of the mission because the mission itself becomes something that is intrinsically motivating. When this shift from extrinsic incentivizing to intrinsic motivation takes place for leaders and followers, organizational members move from a spirit renting to a spirit of owning.

If you want to help develop owners of the organizational mission, draw on the wisdom of transformational leadership theory. This will provide a foundation from which you may engage in the journey of ongoing growth and transformation in service of your organization’s important mission.

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In my next post, I’ll turn my attention to the third leadership priority: Team Leadership and a Collaborative Orientation.

3 thoughts on “Priority #2: Transformational Leadership and Organizational Transformation

  1. I love connecting with the Holy Spirit and engaging with Him as he reveals His visions for transformational leadership. I think of it in terms of stewarding His mission. I think listening to employees’ feedback on what that mission looks like for them makes it a 2-way street, so they have a deeper sense of ownership. Excellent post.

  2. Pingback: Priority #3: Team Leadership and a Collaborative Orientation | Purpose in Leadership

  3. Pingback: Priority #4: Purpose in Leadership and Meaning-Based Living | Purpose in Leadership

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