The 6 Essential Transformations Every Leader Must Face
In any system, organization or community, change is an essential aspect of existence. Look at how the planet works through its cycles of seasons and how nature constantly goes through transformation. Human beings change, too. No one can remain the same person for very long — everyone grows, adds experience, learns lessons and adjusts to the changing times. When we are stuck or stagnant, it leaves us feeling like we lack meaning and purpose. Without meaning and purpose, you might be operating on auto-pilot. That is not only ineffective, it can lead to feelings of unhappiness, feeling disconnected and, sadly, sickness and poor health if left unaddressed.
In some instances, I believe that change and transformation are also aspects of leadership that often go overlooked. We tend to think of leaders as steady, reliable and consistent in their specific approach that makes them effective. These are not necessarily bad things. However, I would caution against confusing predictability with effective leadership. The best leaders are dynamic individuals who are unafraid of transforming themselves and their styles to lead their people. And yet, they retain a set of core values and principles that keep them grounded through change.
The key for modern leaders is to be able to recognize and accept the feeling of impending transformation. Many leaders ignore or suppress the instinct to change and grow because it feels uncomfortable. They are afraid of the unknown, or they are unsure if they will be able to retain their credibility if they alter aspects of their leadership and approach.
If you are feeling the need to transform, but you’re skeptical of what the future may hold, I understand your reluctance to embrace the changes that are happening in you, and around you. With that in mind, I would like to share with you some of the areas where leaders experience change most often. You have probably already experienced some of these transformations in your role as a leader already, which should tell you that you have what it takes to handle change. As you will see, change and transformation are core aspects life and leadership.
Let’s get started!
#1 — Becoming a Leader
You were not always a leader, at least not formally at the beginning of your career. Like many of us, it is likely that you had a knack for leading and influencing others, and it may have come very naturally to you. But it took time, effort and transformation for you to earn your title, establish yourself and gain the respect of your people. Most of all, you had to learn the difference between being a boss and being a leader. The leadership instincts were probably inside of you the whole time, but becoming a real leader required you to transform, enhance your instincts and take your skills to a new level.
Thinking that this is the final transformation you need to make is a mistake. It is just the beginning of a never-ending process, and the cycle of growth and transformation.
#2 — Moving from Dictatorship to Democracy
Some inexperienced leaders feel the need to lead with an iron fist and demand absolute compliance from their people. This is largely due to learned behavior they observed from their respective leaders, or can be a result of their lack of experience and insecurity – often it’s a combination of both. Sadly, some people get stuck in this style of leadership thinking that it is effective and produces results. Some of them can hang on to their jobs, but most of them find that this dictatorial style is simply unsustainable — or the powers that be recognize the harm that it’s causing to the organization and remove them from leadership.
The leaders who recognize the failure of their dictatorial ways and transform to a more democratic style have greater staying power. They also earn a lot more respect from their peers and their people.
#3 — Shifting Focus from Problems to Solutions
The most inspiring and effective leaders rarely spend significant time lamenting or complaining about problems. Nor do they point fingers or worry about whom to blame for mistakes. Instead, they focus on solutions.
Pointing out mistakes and placing blame is not leadership. It is usually driven by a desire to avoid responsibility and the fear of being seen as vulnerable or weak. Leadership should be about forward movement and progress, but it is impossible to make progress when energy is spent sorting out whom to blame for a mistake.
Obviously, leaders need to take action when their people routinely fail to perform properly. But focusing too intensely on mistakes leaves no room for finding solutions.
When leaders make this shift, they consciously avoid the instinct to point out mistakes. Instead, they ask what needs to be done to get things back on track and improve. This benefits their respective teams and organizations considerably.
#4 — Becoming a Visionary Leader
Leaders usually begin their careers by managing people, ideas, problems and solutions from a day-to-day perspective. They work to ensure smooth operations and harmonious teamwork. But they do not have a vision that extends much farther beyond the end of the current quarter.
At a certain point, and most definitely as people begin to take on more senior leadership roles, they need to look a little farther into the future, thinking in bigger terms and developing a larger vision. They retain their ability to see the day-to-day realities of their organizations, but they gain the ability to place those realities into the context of the bigger picture. This is what it means to become a visionary leader. It is a huge, vital transformation of leadership, and it is necessary for those who want to continue to grow their careers. Effective day-to-day management is great, but it can be limiting. It can also start to feel stagnant in terms of growth and development.
#5 — Recognizing that Leadership Is Not Static
The most celebrated leaders are those who never rest on their accomplishments or expertise. They realize that they may have the right answers today, but that those answers might not be relevant tomorrow. So they keep on working, learning, enhancing and striving to perform better.
This realization hits different leaders at different times, but it likely to happen sooner or later. Those who fail to make this realization typically do not last long in leadership. Their approaches become stale and outdated quickly, causing them to lose engagement from their people.
Leadership is like a living thing. It requires care, nurturing, discipline and fuel for growth. If your approach to leadership is not tended to properly — or if you make yourself too comfortable with the status quo — you will start to lose your level of effectiveness and ability to lead.
#6 — Understanding that Leadership Is Not About the Leader
Grounded, effective and inspiring leaders put their people first. They have confidence in themselves, but they know that without their people, they will not be successful at achieving their overall goals and objectives.
Inexperienced leaders can sometimes let their own egos run wild. They fail to see their people as human beings, treating them more like machines than the special individuals they are. They see team members as assets or investments, rarely considering that they have rich, full lives inside and outside of work.
Transformed leaders see their team members as human beings who are just as valuable and important as they are. They also recognize that their accomplishments as leaders are only possible through the talent, innovation, hard work and dedication of their people. When leaders make this vital shift in thinking, they transform their organizations in profoundly positive ways.
Do You Feel a Transformation Happening?
Where are you on the path of transformation? Have you transformed and transcended to become the most effective leader you can be? Chances are, you have experienced a few of the transformations I’ve described above, but there is still room for growth and grounding.
If you feel a change or transformation happening, it can be scary, but it’s a positive development. Get comfortable being uncomfortable – this is where growth happens.
Stay tuned for our next blog posts in the coming weeks to learn more about leadership transformation and how you can ensure that you are always growing and evolving.