Characteristics of Transformational Leaders

Establish a Vision:

John C. Maxwell stated that “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way”. Transformational leaders establish a strategic vision or Hoshin Kanri that list true North metrics with objectives that are Clear, Concise, Measurable and Achievable. They take into account the internal and external environment that infringe on achieving objectives. They supervise and refine strategy implementation by putting mechanisms in place to assess if the plan is working as well as a means for correction.

Enlist and Empower the Right Team:

Jack Welsh, Chairman, and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001 said: “If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings and put compensation as a carrier behind it you almost don't have to manage them.” Transformational leaders like Welsh understood the power of harnessing diversity and encouraging innovation with incentives. Empowered teams mean growth in personnel and company. Empowered teams also tend to show lower turnover rates. What incentives are you currently providing your team? What other incentives can you provide? To answer these questions, you need to make sure that you know what your people care about. 

Give Control:

One of the best examples of this characteristic is Captain David Marquet. The idea here is to harness the creativity of those that you lead. This is done by setting a clear vision and then allowing the team members to drive the organization forward with maximum autonomy. Captain Marquet took a subpar submarine crew to the pinnacle of performance using this principle and two caveats. 1) Team members must be competent; 2) Team members must have clarity. Today, it is common to see corporations roll out a common vision or goals for the year from the top with the President or CEO. These goals are then made a part of subordinate’s annual achievement plans at every level down to the entry level employee. At the surface, this is a great way to create a unified vision for corporation. However, in practice, the common mistake made in this method is the failure to give clarity on what those goals are and how they affect the company and the employee. Consequently, managers end up with only one of the caveats given by Captain Marquet: competency.

Remove Obstacles:

One habit that great leaders have, is the ability to affectively remove obstacles out of the way of their teams. This habit is another method for empowering your people. When your team comes to you with a problem or issue, how do you respond? Do you leave them to figure it out themselves because you have other things to take care of? Or do you listen to the challenge that is being presented and see how you can remove the obstacle in order to get your team back focused on the project at hand? It is important to keep in mind that you must draw a very clear line between micromanaging/doing the work for them and actually removing an obstacle. Let's look at the following example: Nicole is a senior manager at a quickly growing startup technology company. She manages a team of 6 people. They all generally work as individual contributors with the exception of the overall goal of getting their product to market by the release dates. One day Chrystal, one of her employees, comes to her office. Chrystal tells Nicole that the team has missed their last two deadlines for getting their product to market. Nicole digs into this issue further with Chrystal and discovers that the fundamental issue is that Chrystal does not know how to perform the analysis of the data needed to present at the next Executive Monthly Meeting. Nicole finds a subject matter expert with the proper background to train and review the data with Chrystal. The project moves forward and the next due date is not missed. In addition to this small win, Nicole now has a member on her team that knows how to perform the analysis and can train the others. Remove obstacles and empower your team.

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