Several personal leadership characteristics are essential for a leader to possess in order to effectively lead and transform an organization. These personal characteristics describe the aspect of leadership better known as transformational leadership, leadership that seeks to transform not only the organization but also the followers’ vision of “what is” to “what can be”. The following highlights four characteristics that leaders exhibit when effectively leading organizational transformations.
Possess Self-Confidence and Belief in Ones Own Abilities:
One of the first personal characteristics that a transformational leader must possess is confidence and a belief in their own abilities to truly influence and change the present course and action of an organization. Studies have shown that possessing high self-confidence, self-determination and inner purpose and direction are positively associated with transformational leaders. Leaders who have confidence in their abilities to influence change and their environment don’t rely on luck or chance to make things happen. They see themselves as “enablers” and the source of “energy” to drive the transformation.
Purposefully Inspire and Energize People to Act:
Effective leaders are able to purposefully inspire and energize people to act in a direction towards a goal they have helped them understand is worthy and meaningful. Therefore, the transformational leaders must possess the ability to create and communicate a powerful vision that will excite the minds of their followers, inspiring them to go “beyond” their current boundaries. This is an essential leadership characteristic because it is the ability to define and communicate the purpose of the transformation in a meaningful way to the organization that enables its members to effectively take up their own personal banners in support of the larger goal.
Develop, Communicate and Continually Sell the Vision:
Developing and communicating the vision is just the beginning. An effective transformational leader must also be able to continually sell the vision, and continually convince others to climb on board, stick it out, whether in good times or bad. How a leader “frames’ the future and the organizations’ purpose is critical for long-term support. This can be illustrated in a story that has been passed down concerning relies from three brick layers when asked about their job. When the first bricklayer was asked what job he was doing, he replied “I am laying bricks, one on top on each other”. When the second bricklayer was asked what he was doing he replied “I am building a great wall”. However, when the third bricklayer was asked what he was doing he replied “I am changing the world! I am building a new gateway to the west. A place where people from all over the world will have an opportunity to come and visit new places, meet new people, make new friends. I am building one of the most advanced travel facilities in the world. Millions of people will benefit from the work I am doing. This airport will change lives!” The difference in how each brick layer saw their same job is an example of how important it is for an effective leader to create, communicate and “frame” the future purpose of the organization. The first two bricklayers where doing their jobs, however, the third bricklayer was inspired and motivated because he was changing the world.
Be a Change Leader, Innovator and Coach:
Finally, three additional characteristics that are essential for being a transformational leader include being a change leader, an innovator and an effective coached. First, change is and will continue to be a constant for all organizations. Therefore, transformational leaders must also be change leaders, having the willingness and ability to change that which is being done to something that has possibly never been done before. They need to be able to be seen as abandoning today in search of a better tomorrow. Second, the effective leader must welcome and encourage innovation while encouraging others to develop new and innovative concepts for solving tomorrow’s problems and delivering world class solutions. They know that the ideas and thinking that created the current state are not the same ones needed to create a better tomorrow. Therefore, effective leaders know how important it is to encourage and reward “new thinking” and “new thoughts” in order to move the organization to a new place. And third, an effective transformational leader must be willing and able to be a coach and advisor to their followers and know if they have the right team and individuals to support the transformation going forward. Not all people are at the same level of ability and readiness to transform. Understanding their readiness level to transform and change is critical to being able to determine the timing and expectations for the transformation. Therefore, the effective leader must know the level of support that is needed by the organization as well as the individuals being led. By doing so, the effective leader will be able to make the “right connections” and “partner” effectively with their organization by training and developing followers where needed and ultimately positioning everyone to successfully execute and deliver new value to the organization.