What does it take to be a Transformational Leader?
You know what I’m talking about – that one in a million, riveting presence. I’m talking about the kind of person who enters the room and the very air around them scintillates with excitement.
People are drawn in as if by some gravitational force, and this leader doesn’t need to lift a finger – just smile, nod, and say hello – and it’s clear to everyone in the room who’s got control of the situation.
So what is that?
Is it natural born charisma? Is it a refinement honed in finishing school? Do they pass it around in certain zip codes along with the gold-plated pacifier and the silver baby rattle?
Is it won in a knock-down, drag-out fight in some back alley, as unspoken as an illicit game of craps?
Does it dwell in a natural spring, deep within the craggy peaks of a distant mountain range, guarded by monks in saffron robes? How do you get to be a leader?
Leadership and Its Necessities
Some would say that in order to be a great leader, a person first has to be a great follower. But there’s evidence to suggest that some of the world’s greatest leaders have been terrible followers, at least in some respects, from their earliest childhood. So leadership is not dependent on social influence.
Some would say that leadership requires mental refinement, a world-class education, and wholesome, discerning social influences from an early age – the right neighborhood, the right friends, the right mentors.
The saying goes, if you have nine broke friends, odds are you’re the tenth. Yet again, we find that some of the greatest leaders the world has ever known have come from the most humble environments imaginable. So leadership is not dependent on education.
Some would say that inspired leadership comes from the clarity of mind that can only be the result of peak physical conditioning – that without freedom from the distraction of ill health, true greatness is elusive. But that’s not really the case either.
In fact, sometimes overcoming fearsome pain serves to sharpen the resolve.
Leadership is a choice, and being a good leader is a skill that anyone can learn. It takes the right model, the right kind of analysis, and above all, it takes action.
When you strengthen your commitment to service, you can more effectively communicate your values and vision – whether it’s to an audience of one or a million and one.
When you apply yourself and get clear on the goal, you’ll understand clearly when it’s necessary to make sacrifices and when to stand your ground.
Transformational Leadership Defined
Transformational Leadership can be defined as the amalgam of vision, influence, and strength. This isn’t the total picture of great leadership, but it’s a place to start. First, let’s define these terms.
Vision involves seeing the big picture. Now, a lot of people think this means looking toward the future, having an idea of what it looks like, and driving toward it with laser-like focus.
I say vision also involves a clear perception of the past as well – a knowledge of history and how it impacts the present. Having vision means understanding the lay of the land, what things look like today to clearly map the best route to that future destination.
Influence is a tricky one. It means clearly communicating your desires and intent in such a way that others agree with your assessment about the action you believe is required. Now, this is not to be confused with manipulation, yet all too often it is. In fact, there are courses widely available in the marketplace today that teach mental manipulation in the guise of sales and leadership tactics.
But unless you connect with the hearts and minds of those you’d like to influence, any psychological manipulation is going to wear off. Trust is earned, not coaxed. That’s the kind of influence we’re talking about here, and it’s more closely aligned with evangelism. It’s also more potent than any temporary persuasion tactics could hope to be. Influence needs rapport.
Strength comes into play during the times you least suspect you’ll need it. As a leader, inner strength is something you must loan not only to those who would follow you, but to yourself as well. It comes from, not mere interest, but from a conviction deep in your soul that the road you’re on is the right path. In fact, it’s the only path.
What will help to build this strength as a leader is being clear on what some people call your Why – your reason, your goal, your motivation. What’s driving you? Make it clear and tangible. Make it concrete. Make it real. Believe it.
Vision… influence… strength: these are the bedrock qualities of a Transformational Leader. When you have these, what comes after seems inevitable.
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