Transformative leadership

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By: Paul Leroue, Wipfli LLP, Chief Marketing Officer and Principal

Transformational leaders are those who don’t just rise to every challenge, they bring along everyone else to collectively make a difference. In fact, transformational leadership is not about the individual leader. It’s about inspiring others and developing others at every level to create high-impact leadership teams. While building a leadership team is likely not a new notion to you, what makes a good leader might be.

Instead of looking for the loudest, command-control type associate, you want to instead look for the ones who have the most constructive influence throughout your firm.

In short: You want the leader who doesn’t just make their goal, you want the one who helps everyone hit all their numbers.

You also should find high-impact leaders at every level instead of just looking at those who’ve been at your firm the longest. We are experiencing a historical four-generation workforce, with baby boomers, Generation X, millennials, and Generation Z all working together.

So how do you identify the ones you want on your high-impact leadership team?

Look for these four I’s of transformation leadership:

  • Idealized influence: Role models who are purpose-driven high achievers.
  • Inspirational motivation: Has a clear vision that is inclusive and optimistic and inspires others.
  • Individual consideration: Empathetic and focused on needs of others.
  • Intellectual stimulation: Challenges others to be innovative and creative.

But transformative leadership is more than picking the right team. You need to lay the foundation within your firm to empower their success.

Collaborate on vision

These collaborative leaders also expect to be collaborated with.

Rather than dictating the firm’s vision and simply announcing it (and any related milestones) to the organization, transformative leaders make the visioning process collaborative to ensure that all groups and all levels within the organization are represented and heard. This inspires employees to engage at a high level, which will fuel your firm’s growth more than everyone just following orders.

Share power and decision-making

There are functional and dysfunctional ways of sharing power. Dysfunctional power-sharing takes two forms: Power Over and Power Up.

Prevalent in the 1980s and 1990s, Power Over management tells staff, “You do the busy work; I’ll make the decisions about what direction to go.” Power Up leaders control others through temper and disruptive behavior. These managers insist, “My way or the highway.”

By contrast, functional power-sharing can be classified as Power To and Power With. Power To leaders tell more junior cohorts: “I trust you to make decisions; just check in with me first.” Power With leaders say, “You and I will work on this together and, ultimately, we will make a decision together.”

Ultimately, transformative leadership is about building a community of people who work together and achieve at the highest level. 

Develop the next leaders

Everyone, at every level of the firm, has their own aspirations and a desire to progress. By developing leaders at every level, you not only can increase morale and motivation but also organically develop tomorrow’s senior leadership.

Current senior leaders need to delegate, elevate, and cascade decision-making and authority. Leaders who follow more traditional models might be concerned that if they delegate, work will come back to them less than perfect and require additional time to fix. That may be the case in the short-term, but if tasks can’t be delegated, staff can’t be elevated — and that’s a risky position to be in.

Delegation is a process. The first time, you might not get the result you want, but coaching — instead of doing it yourself — will build the skills of your team.

About our prime series

This article is part of Wipfli’s Prime series. Prime is a state of being that occurs when your organization’s strategy, leadership, associates, technology, and operations are aligned to deliver exceptional business outcomes. Our series covers the key steps to help you get there. In addition, see our additional articles on:

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