How are organizations transformed and revitalized? How do you break down the heavy bureaucratic culture of a large multinational? There is no single answer. We could suggest a creative touch, analyzing all processes, unlearning those that are no longer useful while learning new and more efficient methods so that they can be implemented. In this regard, today’s leaders must be part of their teams to get the best from them. They must be pioneers of change who are prepared to take risks, innovate, and pursue new ways of doing things: with more research and development, switching from on-site to remote working, from extensive to accommodating working hours, from emphasizing individual talent to the strength of the team. And the catalyst for this transformative change is in fact the “learning process”.

Learning by leading

Breaking away from theorists as esteemed as James MacGregor Burns and Bernard M. Bass, Warren Bennis, one of the foremost academic experts in the study of leadership, said: “Leaders learn by leading, and they learn best when they encounter difficulties.” I suppose this is similar to the proverb “rough seas make good sailors” because when things are calm the ship sails itself. And it is very true. In fact, in Bennis’ own words: “Leaders are people who are always training, people who learn,” and I would venture to add that they must learn from everything and everyone.  However, if we want to delve into a more detailed analysis of what is meant by a “transformational leader”, we must understand that it is not just someone who holds a higher position in the organizational hierarchy, but someone who is involved in a process of exchange with their team.

To be able to accomplish this transformation process within companies, a good leader must work to 1) identify the need for change; 2) create a new vision, and 3) institutionalize that change. Once the need for organizational change has been acknowledged, the toughest challenge is to manage the transition, primarily through ongoing learning and training.

As a result, transformational managers are being sought who have a vision of the future and understand the direction the company needs to head in. They do not require more technical training than the rest of the team, merely an “open attitude towards learning” so they can then make the right decisions aimed at reorienting the company. In other words, an individual with the following essential characteristics: a person with integrity and potential, who is consistent, creative, and competent. Furthermore, they should be able to generate positive energy, share information, and possess the credibility, enthusiasm, and knowledge to accomplish everything they set out to do.

Transactional or transformational leaders?

Unfortunately, we do not always come across proactive managers who are eager to learn new processes and tirelessly strive for change. In our working lives, as employees, we may encounter leaders who prefer to practice transactional rather than transformational leadership. This type of leadership aims to improve conditions for the organization, is reactive, and focuses on execution. In other words, a company where you will hear: “I need you to do it this way” (my way or that of the organization). This form of leadership is best seen in established and bureaucratic environments and is something that can lead to short-term results and a rapid loss of motivation among the team.

As discussed earlier, transformational leaders are in constant pursuit of proactivity, placing the emphasis on the values, beliefs, and needs of the team. They are leaders who can navigate in turbulent waters and foster innovation. This type of leader typically seeks to change the existing organizational culture, create a vision for their team, incorporate the mission, and implement change with the support of a dedicated team.

This means that in transformational leadership, the leader serves as a role model and also as a motivator who delivers vision, excitement, motivation, morale, and satisfaction to employees. The leader inspires their team to develop their skills and capabilities, boosts confidence, and nurtures innovation and talent throughout the organization. As a result, the core concept of this leadership style is that both the manager and the employee work together to improve and change the company.

10 commandments of transformational leadership:

  • Change to grow. Innovate to improve.
  • Take risks and learn from mistakes.
  • Make an achievable plan for the future.
  • Encourage the team to participate, work and share the vision.
  • Promote collaboration, cooperation, and mutual trust.
  • Empower the people in the team: developing their skills.
  • Be consistent with the values of the team.
  • Achieve small goals that promote progress and commitment.
  • Acknowledge the individual talent that has made the project achievable.
  • Always and regularly recognize the team’s successes.

Author: Joan Margarit, marketing, and communication analyst.

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