Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Six Steps to Transformational Leadership

How to simply motivate a group of employees is one thing. But how to be the sort of leader that influences the financial performance and survival of an organisation is another.

It’s been said before within the pages of this humble blog that digging deep into the depths of dry academic journals occasionally unearths a gem of an article that contains something of great value and wider applicability.

Such a gem is to be found in the pages of Gary Yukl’s Leadership in Organisations, where the concept of Transformational Leadership is explored in detail.

So, if you wish to be the sort of leader who can inspire followers and enhance their self-confidence and commitment to the mission, here are the six factors which evidence indicates are most likely to deliver results.

Articulate a clear and appealing vision
Give a clear vision of what the organisation could achieve or become, communicating it well, often, and using a variety of ways to do so. Use colourful, emotional language that includes vivid imagery, metaphors, anecdotes and stories.

Explain how the vision can be attained
Articulating the vision is not enough: the leader also needs to convince followers that it is feasible and can be achieved. Make a link between the vision and the credible strategy for turning it into reality.

Act with confidence and optimism
Your followers will not have faith in any vision unless you can demonstrate your self confidence and conviction. Remain optimistic about success, even in the face of temporary setbacks. Emphasize what has been accomplished rather than how much more is yet to be done.

Express confidence in your followers
Often described as the Pygmalion Effect, research has found that people perform better when a leader has high expectations for them and has confidence in them. It’s particularly important that you foster confidence and optimism when the task is difficult. So remind your team of how they overcame obstacles and triumphed on earlier occasions. Tell them that the are at least as good as an earlier team that was successful in performing the same type of activity.

Use dramatic symbolic actions to emphasize key values.
As Yukl states, “a vision is reinforced by leadership behaviour that is consistent with it.” He quotes an example of a new CEO who personally destroyed some low-quality versions of the company’s product that had been sold previously as seconds. So the message is clear: if necessary be dramatic to emphasize your key values.

Lead by example
Quite simply: your actions speak louder than your words, so set an example of exemplary behaviour in day-to-day interactions with subordinates. If you ask your team to observe a standard, keep it yourself. If you need your team to make sacrifices, do the same. To paraphrase Yukl: the values you wish to convey need to be demonstrated in your daily behaviour, and consistently, not just when it’s convenient.

So dear readers: what do you think?


  1. Sounds like common sense to me! But hey, we all know that common sense ain’t always common practise.

    So often you come across leaders whose words are incongruous with their behaviours. But that’s no different to life if you think about it, with those who purport to follow a particular doctrine of life but whose behaviour doesn’t align with their declared beliefs.

    Question is: can you change a managers spots? How do you make someone truly walk the walk and talk the talk? However hard you try, if it’s not in your heart it will normally surface one way or another.

    So, dear Manager, great if you choose to follow Mr Yukl’s advice! But unless you swallow them whole, you’ll have to work bloomin’ hard to make them effective.


  2. I always believe in the term "leading by example". To be a leader to your team as was rightly said in this article, you must participate within your team so that your team can see that you are not just a talker but you do as you say and also it shows a committment and dedication to team work and getting the job done and you will gain respect from your team. Having said this alot of people have a misconseption of what leadership is. Alot of people believe that leading is about being bossy, agressive and demanding - I'm afraid that is completely wrong!