Because of the major shifts in all aspects of organizational life, a new kind of leadership is emerging. It is the kind of leadership that enables the exploration of new and innovative ways to drive value and deliver real results in an ever-changing business environment. This new leadership allows individuals and organizations to thrive at the edge of chaos, inspiring the innovation and creativity needed to develop new products and technologies, even new business models that can lead to sustainable competitive advantage in the new economy. This new form of leading is called "transformational leadership."
The spirit of transformational leadership is founded in the ethos of pioneering, innovating and the exploration of new dimensions of human endeavor. This holistic view of how opportunity is created and captured in the organizational setting provides greater insight into how a company can fully integrate people, process, and technology toward achieving its goals and creating a sustainable competitive advantage. The competency of transformational leadership provides leaders and managers with a whole new way to energize and enliven individual contributors to deliver their best effort and ideas to organizational objectives as a matter of personal expression and professional esprit décor.
The context for transformational leadership includes a kind of visionary acumen that can articulate winning and success in a way that captures the imagination of others. In doing so, like-minded contributors can be invited to add their views to amplify the meaning and purpose of the company such that everyone is inspired to do their best work and serve the greater needs of the enterprise and its customers. The complexities of the knowledge economy are so perplexing that thought-leaders and managers need to redefine what it means to deliver ever-increasing yet sustainable high performance.
Because of the dynamics of a generally chaotic social and economic environment, learning becomes a key enabler of transformational leadership. This means that today's leader-manager must commit to a personal development process that expands their capacity for understanding themselves in relation to the people they collaborate with, the technology that supports them and the customers they serve. This also entails providing support and resources to others for their growth and development toward the achievement of business objectives.
Since the path of progress for knowledge era organizations is unpaved, leaders within these organizations will have to catalyze creativity and innovation of individual contributors to find new ways to delight customers and fend off would-be competitors. This does not mean that the leader must provide the creativity or innovation, but rather she must be an enabling force for change by unleashing creativity and the spirit of innovation in others. In this way, the transformational leader paves the way for individual contributors to do their best work, driving value to the bottom-line through outstanding products and services that benefit customers. The pioneering spirit is founded in the ethos of providing resources and removing obstacles for others in the work group, project team or organization.
In the 21st century, the days of incremental improvement as the definitive improvement process are over. In my view, the capacity of leaders to generate new breakthroughs in organizational performance, technical excellence, and human and social capitalization is a requirement in today's marketplace. These breakthroughs in knowledge and performance occur most often in the context of community; learning communities that seek to leverage the unique capabilities and talents of all members. By fostering inclusion, diversity and shared-learning, the new leader can develop an organizational capacity for performance at all levels that is not easily matched by competitor organizations.
The key directional ideas of transformation leadership are:
Open systems - this idea is about recognizing the interconnections and inter-relationships between just about everything. It's about creating synergies between people, process, and technology. It's about influence vs. control.
Chaos - this idea points to the sheer magnitude of interconnections, relationships, and dependencies that defy categorization and manipulation. It is also about the natural order inherent in seemingly chaotic events that can be harnessed as a source of creativity, innovation, and inspiration.
Willingness - is about influence, confluence, and synergy vs. domination, control or willfulness. To be willing is to attract and allow things (people, process, technology, opportunity) to self-organize vs. imposing order and "making things happen."
Defiance - this is about standing in the face of opportunity, at the edge of what is possible, and doing everything humanly possible (ethically and morally correct) to achieve goals that drive the mission and fulfill the vision of the organization.
From the behavioral standpoint, transformational leadership begins with self-development and extends to the coaching and developing of others. It is about making sure that the people around you have the tools and resources they require to do their best work. It is about taking personal responsibility to remove the barriers that inhibit the optimal sustainable performance of people who follow you. This kind of leadership is about recognizing the explicit and implicit value of individuals, networks, and relationships and providing energy and inspiration for others to achieve the mutual aim of the enterprise. It's the kind of leadership that we most want for ourselves so we provide it to others.
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