Popular culture is entranced with the idea of transformation. Just look at our blockbuster movies that feature all kinds of magic, relationships renewed and personal bests beat despite the odds. We love our stories of redemption and renewal, all of which celebrate the potential for human beings to transform from ordinary to extraordinary.
And then you walk into the office or pick up the business press and all that exciting, life-affirming energy seems muted, if not absent. Our work days are spent in minutia watching most big ideas get beat back before their fully explored. It can be really dispiriting. Where is the encouragement to grow personally or the support to learn to manage others as human beings instead of business assets?
The solution is supposed to come in a business discipline called “transformational leadership,” and yet this topic is rarely deeply explored, and in my opinion too often confused with charismatic leadership. Many leadership articles tend to glorify visionary business executives and generals, mostly dead, who’ve also been good people of great character. Sometimes you’ll read about industry movers and shakers still alive who are transforming industries, but after writing about how amazing they are the article will devolve into their megalomania and the ways in which they abuse their staff. Where is the transformation in these stories?
If we go back to the original definition of transformational leadership, attributed to James McGregor Burns, we see that the transformational aspects of leadership had as much to do with the followers as the leader. Those who followed a transformational leader were inspired, empowered and motivated, even in the weeds of their everyday job.
In reality, transformational leadership doesn’t just happen when industries undergo disruption or powerful people succeed. Transformational leadership happens all over the place in business. It doesn’t look as much like a butterfly (or movie monster) as it does like a truly exceptional leader – at any level – who takes it upon themselves to BE the change; to BE motivated and inspired, to invite others into those feelings and opportunities in meaningful ways. These leaders inspire and empower their colleagues to accomplish more and have more fun doing it.
“Transformational leaders bring everyone closer to their greatest potential.”
What does it mean to BE the change? There’s only one to find out. Be it and see what happens. Not sure where to start? Start here.
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