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More Than a Manager: The Transformational Leader

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The need for culture transformation can be driven by one or more factors: organizational growth, toxic organizational culture, poor top-level leadership, industry or technology changes, negativity, poor management, or even a lack of succession planning for an aging workforce. To change and transform culture, we must transform the individuals who make up the culture. Any time we are trying to create positive change, we find ourselves challenged to influence others to accept, buy in, and get on board with the transformation. In an uncertain world, one thing is certain: Leading positive transformation is challenging.

And, regardless of the cause, the effect is disastrous if the response isn’t sufficient to meet the challenge.

Transformation is a change in form, appearance, or character. Transformational leadership is being able to influence others to change their character, and therefore behavior. This can create positive change and culture transformation and also lead to organizational success far beyond any strategic goal.

Few people have a desire to truly become a transformational leader, and not all of those with a desire actually make it. Leadership requires sacrifice, character development, time, effort, energy, and putting others ahead of yourself. Transformational leadership isn’t about the title you have or the position you hold. It’s not about climbing to the top alone. It’s about summiting the top of the mountain, then intentionally going back down to find others who need help climbing to the top. Transformational leaders sacrifice personally in order to become significant in the lives of others. The challenges will be great, and the obstacles endless.

However, the reward is priceless. Transformational leadership is about making a difference in the lives of others. It’s about fulfilling your purpose and helping someone else unleash their potential. Transformational leadership is about refusing to accept good enough and going for great. As Jim Collins, author of Good to Great said, “Good is the enemy of great. And, that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.”


Regardless of whether you are a CEO, director, HR professional, consultant, trainer, or talent development specialist, you have the opportunity to move beyond simply managing the tasks of your daily job and to influence others in a way that allows you to become a transformational leader. You have the opportunity to move from good to great personally, and professionally, when you accept the responsibility of becoming a transformational leader.

There are two requirements: personal transformation and a high level of positive influence.


Personal Transformation

You must have undergone transformation yourself before you can lead others through it. Leadership isn’t about being a travel agent directing people to a place you may have never been. It’s about being a tour guide as you take them someplace you’ve already been. You cannot give someone something you don’t have to give. You can’t take them to the top of the mountain if you don’t know the way.

High-Level Positive Influence

You must be able to influence others relative to improving their character by changing their values in a transformational and positive way. Influence is the essence of leadership, and positive influence is the key to transformational leadership because we are asking someone to follow us somewhere they have never been. Quite possibly, they don’t believe in themselves as much as we believe in their potential. We must be able to motivate them to change, and sustain that motivation until they become inspired enough to continue the journey without as much, or any, support. If it sounds hard and time-consuming, it is.

In truth, we cannot force someone to change their values. But, we can influence them. Our ability to coach and develop others not just in job competencies, but also on personal character, determines whether we become more than just a competent manager—whether we become someone who, regardless of formal level of authority, can take their organization from good to great.

About the Author

Mack and Ria have an amazing story of professional growth, personal growth, and transformation. Mack began his career working on the front lines of a machine shop while Ria started hers in healthcare administration, after overcoming years of difficult childhood. Working in completely different industries, they both began to apply leadership principles to their respective careers with incredible results personally and professionally and developed a passion for leadership.  They founded Top Story Leadership, and offer motivational speaking, leadership development training, coaching, and consulting. Their clients include Chick-fil-A, Auburn University, Koch Industries, and Kimberly-Clark. Together Mack and Ria are now creating and living the life they want, rather than the life they were given. 

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