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Transformational Leadership Theory – By Attila the Hun – How NOT to Apply It to Change Management
Transformational leadership theory is all about leadership that creates positive change in the followers whereby they take care of each other’s interests and act in the interests of the group as a whole. James MacGregor Burns first brought the concept of transformational leadership to prominence in his book Leadership :
“Essentially the leader’s task is consciousness-raising on a wide plane. The leader’s fundamental act is to induce people to be aware or conscious of what they feel – to feel their true needs so strongly, to define their values so meaningfully, that they can be moved to purposeful action.”In this leadership style, the leader enhances the motivation, moral and performance of his follower group. So according to MacGregor – transformational leadership is all about values and meaning, and a purpose that transcends short-term goals and focuses on higher order needs.At times of organisational change, and big step change, people do feel insecure, anxious and low in energy – so in these situations and especially in these difficult times, enthusiasm and energy are infectious and inspiring. And yet so many organisational changes fail because leaders pay attention to the changes they are facing instead of the transitions people must make to accommodate them. In my view it is the responsibility of the director leading the change to supply an infusion of positive energy.The transformational approach also depends on winning the trust of people – which is made possible by the unconscious assumption that they too will be changed or transformed in some way by following the leader.The transformational approach also depends on winning the trust of people – which is made possible by the unconscious assumption that they too will be changed or transformed in some way by following the leader.This is often seen in military commanders and wartime political leaders. An example of this would be the way in which Lady Thatcher – as Prime Minister of the UK Government during the Falklands War in 1982 – was able to engender an enhanced feeling of British national identity amongst the UK population.Sounds like this leadership style is ideally suited to change management, doesn’t it? However – this approach requires absolute integrity and personal behaviour that is consistent and resonant with your vision and message.I can recall a ridiculous situation, at one UK company I was involved with, where the directors were attempting to effect a culture change of greater inter-departmental trust and communication yet still retained a separate directors dining room and specially allocated car parking places closest to the office front door!OK here’s the important bit – how NOT to apply transformational leadership theory to change management- Be preoccupied with power, position, politics and perks- Stay focused on the short-term – Be hard data oriented- Focus on tactical issues- Work within existing structures and systems- Concentrate on getting the job done- Focus processes and activities that guarantee short-term profitsDoesn’t all this just sound like a description of a typical good project manager with a task driven mentality?And hey, I have nothing against this style of leadership and management. There is a time and place for the Attila the Hun school of leadership. I have done it many times myself and very effectively – and with no regrets.But, this leadership style is not enough in a change management situation and particularly in the current climate.The four components of the transformational leadership style are:(1) Charisma or idealised influence – the degree to which the leader behaves in admirable ways and displays convictions and takes stands that cause followers to identify with the leader who has a clear set of values and acts as a role model for the followers.(2) Inspirational motivation – the degree to which the leader articulates a vision that is appeals to and inspires the followers with optimism about future goals, and offers meaning for the current tasks in hand.(3) Intellectual stimulation – the degree to which the leader challenges assumptions, stimulates and encourages creativity in the followers – by providing a framework for followers to see how they connect [to the leader, the organisation, each other, and the goal] they can creatively overcome any obstacles in the way of the mission.(4) Personal and individual attention – the degree to which the leader attends to each individual follower’s needs and acts as a mentor or coach and gives respect to and appreciation of the individual’s contribution to the team. This fulfils and enhances each individual team members’ need for self-fulfilment, and self-worth – and in so doing inspires followers to further achievement and growth.Transformational leadership applied in a change management context, is ideally suited to the holistic and wide view perspective of a programme based approach to change management and as such is key element of successful strategies for managing change.
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Transformational Leadership Theory – By Attila the Hun – How NOT to Apply It to Change Management}