I posted yesterday’s Spark Plug article about five principles of transforming leadership on LinkedIn (you can read it here). I’ve received more private messages from that posting than almost anything else I’ve ever done.
Some of them were heartbreaking – variations of “what do you do when the ‘transforming leader’ is a bully who tries to transform you by tearing you down?”
Others were more uplifting – expressing gratitude for the transforming leaders they’d been blessed to work with and the positive cultures that they are currently blessed to work in.
This was the question that really made me think: How do I become a transforming leader?
There is, of course, no easy answer to that question. The transforming leaders I mentioned in my post spent their lifetimes working on it. But here’s how I would answer that question:
The one characteristic all transforming leaders share is that they wear rose-colored binoculars.
No matter the challenges they are currently facing transforming leaders never lose a vision for what could be, and they never allow cynics and pessimists to rob them of that vision. Nelson Mandela in prison never lost sight of a South Africa beyond apartheid and Florence Nightingale at Scutari Barrack Hospital never lost sight of a healthcare system that actually cared for soldiers and veterans.
And transforming leaders see people for who they can be and work to help them achieve that full potential. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard saw their primary product as the people who made up the HP team and helped each be their best selves as human beings and not just as employees.
Those two characteristics of transforming leaders are joined at the hip: Achieving your vision for the organization requires helping the people whose effort is required to fulfill that vision become the best they are capable of being. You see, culture does not change unless and until people change.
That is the guiding insight behind our work with client organizations. Culture does not change unless and until people change. Transforming leaders build better cultures by elevating their people to higher levels of values and expectations.