Are you a transactional or a transformational leader? Transactional leadership is about managing work. It’s the day-to-day management of the work that needs to get done. Transformational leadership is about leading people. It’s the development of individual potential and the engagement of employees that drives emotional commitment to the work.
Businesses need both transactional and transformational leaders. They need you to manage work and lead people. People leaders are able to transform organizations and impact sales most when they:
- Inspire with long-term vision and engage people in meaningful ways to bring a shared vision to life.
- Originate by seeking diverse points of view and being inclusive in decision-making.
- Challenge the status quo by continually asking “what’s new?” and “what’s next?”
- Build success through employee commitment and emotional engagement.
- Communicate openly and frequently to create clarity and invite all voices to be heard.
- Listen and learn from others, regardless of positional power or hierarchy.
- Set standards of excellence based on potential, not past performance.
- Take risks on people and ideas, trusting and allowing others to fail forward.
- Build people so people can build the business.
- Put people first, ahead of deliverables and deadlines and distractions.
Leadership myths and misperceptions make leadership seem inaccessible. But leadership is for everyone, at every level, not just a few at the top of an organization. Senior managers can lead divisions. Sales managers can lead teams. Frontline sellers can (and should!) show up as leaders with their buyers. Leadership is not the result of some innate characteristics. And effective leaders aren’t effective because of their title, authority, personality, or luck. It’s because they do the work that enables them to transform teams, organizations, and outcomes.
There are three critical elements to being effective as a transformational leader (at any level!).
Leadership is a choice. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, researchers and authors, have identified The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® that effective leaders demonstrate more frequently than their less effective counterparts.
There are thirty specific behaviors within those Five Practices. Behaviors can be chosen by anyone who wishes to lead. No special skills, traits or gifts are required. While some behaviors might come more naturally to one person than another, everyone can practice and form habits to exhibit these behaviors more frequently.
Best of all, these behaviors are not mysterious or theoretical. They’re practical and accessible. For example, one of the behaviors exhibited by effective leaders, is “Paints ‘the big picture’ of what we aspire to accomplish.” Anyone can do this if they set out to. Everyone can do this more frequently, too, which is important to note because frequency is the barometer of success.
Leaders are forward-looking. When asked, people consistently identify certain characteristics they admire in leaders. Behaviors make leaders effective. Characteristics make them attractive. Characteristics, of course, are demonstrated through behaviors. That means there’s still hope for those who feel that certain characteristics don’t come readily for them.
The characteristics that consistently appear most often are Honest, Competent, Inspiring, and Forward-Looking. Here’s where it gets interesting. Three of these four characteristics are also associated with source credibility. We are most likely to believe a source (witness, authority, claimant, resource) when they are trustworthy, have expertise, and are dynamic. In other words, there’s a direct correlation between three of the characteristics we admire in leaders and the three criteria we use to deem any source as credible. Trustworthy aligns with honesty, expertise translates into competence, and dynamism results in inspiring others.
That means we’re left with one characteristic that makes the difference between credible people in any role or relationship and credible leaders. The difference is that leaders are admired when they are forward-looking.
No one ever got excited about following a leader who said “Let’s do things the way we always have” or “Let’s settle for things the way they are.” Nevertheless, managers who focus on getting today’s work done tend to resist change and protect the status quo. Transformational leaders do just the opposite – they look for incremental improvements and plan ahead for change and growth.
Leaders are deliberate and purposeful. Effective leaders lead on purpose and with purpose.
People are watching what you do. They follow what you do and pay attention to what you say. This is especially true if you have a job title that implies authority or influence.
If you’re leading people but haven’t thought about where you want to take them, you’re conducting accidental leadership. You may inadvertently be taking others in a direction you never intended. What you’re modeling could be counter-productive to your objectives.
The bottom line is that you are already making a difference. But are you making the difference you WANT to make?
Effective leaders have a clear philosophy of leadership. They know who they are, what they stand for, the values that guide their decision-making, and the difference they want to make. They don’t leave it up to chance.
These three considerations will make you more effective as a leader. But what does it mean to be effective as a leader?
It means people willingly choose to follow you. It means they’ll work hard to make things happen. It means you can transform the status quo into something extraordinary.
Effective leaders inspire sustained action that moves toward the vision, even when there’s struggle or challenge involved. Managers and transactional leaders may compel action, but only so long as they’re applying external incentives or pressures. People soon opt out if they aren’t personally invested in the vision and emotionally engaged by the leader.
It’s simply a choice. Which type of leader will you be?