Transformational Leadership is Both Skill and System
We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.
– Robert Frost
Relationship BECOMES Process.
Process CREATES Trust.
Trust FORMS Community.
Community BUILDS Relationships.
Think about systems by using the model above. The Transformational Leader creates and maintains systems, for others to function as leaders within the system, and to tie to the overall vision and strategy for the organization. We have a worthy vision and a great team, so continually work on the system that enables and empowers the best thinking skills and the best results from each person on the team.
Let me unpack the process outlined above:
First, we invite people to work with us because we have relationships with those people. Sometimes, we invite people to work with us without that relationship, and we take a risk because we really don’t have a history with those people. Inviting the right people to participate is the key. In many instances, having too close a relationship creates problems in the workplace. For example, the factors that make for friendship are not usually the same factors that make for a good employer-employee relationship. Know people and know their skills, remembering that leadership is built around relationship. When the invited person joins the team, then process takes over.
Relationship becomes process. Each person on the team brings value. The process creates a culture of collaboration and independent thinking to drive for results. When there are multiple relationships within the group, there are relationship triangles which complicate things. Creating a process that is transparent and collaborative brings decision making into the area of process.
Trust is the next step. If there is a process where people can speak directly to issues and disagree (even with the boss), then this process establishes trust with the participants, in that they know that they make a difference and that they can speak openly and directly. This element of trust, then, establishes a sense of community.
Community is like a musical ensemble. The choir or orchestra can just play the notes, or they can function as a fine-tuned ensemble. An ensemble functions as a unit. Members of the ensemble are individual performers who are using their best skills in sync with the other performers. It’s not giving up individual talent. It’s taking that talent to another level of excellence. Ensemble status requires rehearsal. Ensemble status requires effective leadership. Ensemble status is a result of transformation over time. Rehearse excellence to gain ensemble status. Perfect practice makes perfect.
Having established a sense of ensemble or community within the team, the team now has a new sense of relationship – not only with individuals on the team, but also with the team as a unit.
- Avoid Group Emotional Process: Creating an emotional process to gain control or to get managed results violates the principles outlined above. Group emotional process can be what’s defined as “group think.” This is where participants abandon their personal values or principles to adopt what the group wants, regardless of what they, the individuals, want or need. Stalin and Hitler were masters of group think. It’s the “agree or you’re out” method, so to speak. Healthy groups allow for individual thinking and build consensus around decisions for the good of the organization – the antithesis of group think. Consensus is a decision worked out in the group with open and honest disagreement, creative thinking, problem solving, and no compromise of principles. Consensus decisions are backed by relationship.
- Don’t Push for Trust Too Fast: One meeting is not enough time for the group to fully trust the process. One meeting is, however, the beginning of trust. Trust is established as participants see that their participation, and the participation of others, makes a difference in the process, the engagement, and the results. Trust develops over time. Trust can be lost in an instant. Be faithful to what you have established to create maximum results.
- Do Not Dictate All the Actions: Define the vision. Define the problem. Define the issues to solve. Don’t define all the action items. Your action items are yours. When the team creates and adopts action items, those items are jointly owned by you and by them. They created the actions. You approved the actions. Each action has a champion who is responsible for execution. Accountability is established within the team in creating the actions and in establishing a completion date. Peer-to-peer accountability is many times more effective than leader-to-individual supervision.
- If You Have an Agenda, State It Openly: If you bring a problem to the team to solve, or want the team to set goals, then allow that process to unfold by being a part of the process as a team member. If you have an agenda or decision already set, then declare your agenda. Do not try to achieve that agenda secretly by disguising it as group process. It will be evident and the team will demonstrate their displeasure in multiple ways. This is a fast way of destroying the earned trust with the team.
- Give What You Ask Others to Give: Ask team members to submit personal goals and action plans. Begin with submitting those yourself. Set an example for others to follow. The team models the actions and habits of the team leader – both good and bad. Transform yourself first to be able to transform the team and the organization.
Be a student of Transformational Leadership. Learn from everyone – both good and bad. Observe what’s happening in the group and with individuals. Leaders get things done. Leaders know how things get done. Leaders empower others to function at their highest level.
The Transformational Leadership Strategist
(c) 2013 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.