Why are some leaders not effective at change and transformation even though they follow all the right steps? Even when the future of the company is at stake, some leaders, while they may have great intentions, undermine themselves with their own lack of knowledge, willingness and /or capability to exert strong leadership. It makes you wonder: What contributes to a leader's capacity to make real and dynamic change in an organization?
Key Leadership conducted a groundbreaking study in search of the answer. With our deep dive into the subject of transformational leadership, we found that authentic transforming leaders do a few key things differently. In addition, they know what NOT to do.
5 critical errors
If you ask any executive what is foremost on their minds, navigating change is at the top of the list. While expectations for successful change are increasing, the success rate is barely rising. Before we disclose what makes someone capable of being an effective, authentic transformational leader, let's look at some critical errors that prevent it:
1. Underestimating the importance of the emotional dynamic. People want to follow people, not just their vision. Connecting is about being real, telling the whole truth, and being receptive.
2. Failing to connect with and inspire employees at all levels; both one-on-one and in small groups. The dialogue of authentic leaders creates a self-renewing learning cycle between leaders and employees in which everyone gains perspective and commitment grows.
3. Focusing on short-term wins rather than the long-term goal of winning the trust of employees.Getting through the complex dynamics of individual and organizational change takes acute awareness, patience, and the ability to assimilate in real time, yet continuously instigate a longer view that can be achieved - through learning by steps and focus.
4. Lack of trust and commitment. When present, trust and commitment sustain momentum in the face of obstacles that can occur during transformational change. Trust and commitment should occur not just at the individual level, but across the board.
5. Inability to recognize the need for a safety zone where people can be vulnerable in the face of mistakes. A safety zone enables continuous improvement and renewal at both an individual and organizational level. Without it, people can't grow, risk declines, and cautious constraint chokes innovation just when it is needed the most. *(CCL)
A key finding: successful transformational change starts with the individual
Distinguished author Bob Anderson** observed that we've tried to change organizational culture as though it's somehow separate from ourselves. Organizational transformation starts with the understanding that it's not possible to transform an organization without first transforming ourselves. It's part of what connects us deeply with both the process of transformation and it's emotional and literal fallout -unwelcome but needed change; reframing of our world view; the emotional challenge of acceptance; and ultimately the winning attitude that integrates with the "new order" can bring. Authentic leaders are in touch with themselves and others, and that connection only comes through deep personal learning and emotional transitioning.
Though transformation happens differently for everyone, it creates the capacity for deep change in all of us. Leaders need to recognize the powerful link between emotional vulnerability and learning to help nurture the change process in their employees. Unfortunately, what often occurs when leaders are faced with conflict is a natural tendency to mask their own fears and anxieties, creating distance. Their defensiveness becomes an obstacle in building trust and slows progress.
Our landmark study revealed some amazing truths
Key Leadership took an in-depth, qualitative look at the connection between personal transformation and transformational leadership and uncovered some interesting revelations. We will be sharing an in depth view over time, but in general:
Authentic transforming leadership begins with events that shatter one's personal framework and set of beliefs. This kind of shakeup -- caused by any epochal event -- creates the impetus for reflecting on our assumptions and beliefs. We discovered that when these shakeups occurred early in life, they often resulted in the ability to adapt and learn over a lifetime. Reflecting on the personal and professional frameworks that support our actions inspires different and more effective ways of behaving and thinking.
As people move through life and continue to learn in ways that are transforming, their leadership framework and personal framework began to merge into a parallel path - and sometimes even the same path. The individuals we studied tended to merge their leadership and personal frameworks in mid-life. Who they are and how they lead became indistinguishable from each other - the essence of what it means to be an authentic transforming leader.
Over time, if this type of transformative learning has taken place, the frameworks and boundaries that typically constrain thinking continuously expand, creating broader perspective and vision. As a result, authentic transforming leaders engage with others in real dialogue about the pain and possibilities of real change -- duplicating their own learning experiences. When leaders are less fearful about vulnerabilities, they can get others to reflect and clarify their own. When employees feel their leaders have also negotiated difficult transitions, it makes them seem more credible.
Essentially, what authentic leaders do right is connect intentionally at many different levels in the organization. They have a "finger on the pulse" of multiple perspectives and can facilitate open discussion at all levels. Authentic leaders also:
· understand that authentic leadership considers the whole self
· are able to articulate their convictions and live by them
· overcome protective leadership frameworks and become
more "real," sometimes learning to let go of compulsive
needs to control
Being a true and authentic leader consists of letting others know that you've been through what they have and still may not have all the answers. While both parties may feel vulnerable at times, the trust that's been built will sustain the relationship and help contribute to greatness on both an individual and team level.
*2005 - Center for Creative Leadership - All Rights Reserved
**Mastering Leadership-Copyright Bob Anderson-The Leadership Circle
NEXT ISSUE: The Key Leadership Model for Authentic Transforming Leadership
For more information on the services we provide to help you and your organization build and grow authentic leaders, please contact us at