Having just received the news of her first real leadership position, the young woman grinned from ear to ear, as she squared her shoulders and assumed an authoritative demeanor. She had wanted this positon for some time, and she was ready to perform. All eyes were on her as she took her place in front of her peers and skillfully led them the 25 yard distance from their classroom to the lunchroom. Three minutes later, having successfully led all 20 of her classmates to their daily source of nutritional sustenance, she sighed with pride and secretly couldn’t wait to get home and tell her parents that today, she was chosen to be the Line Leader!
Leadership is as common as preschools, and the scenario noted above plays out daily in formal and informal venues all over the world. Leadership effectiveness is a critical component of our overall sustainability, and while most of us are born with basic leadership instincts, very few ever truly reach their full potential. Leadership effectiveness follows a hierarchical progression, and the ability to ascend from Good to Great, to Transformational, depends on each leader’s ability to connect with people.
Good Leaders are the backbone of most organizations. They are considerably skilled at guiding or directing a group of people. They are typically discovered in the normal course of business, and mentored informally within the organization. Key attributes associated with Good Leaders include authority, influence, vision, and focus. Throw in some basic business acumen and you have a paid Line Leader who consistently achieves prescribed results in an environment where the stakes are higher than a bologna sandwich. Good leaders garner respect from the people they manage by understanding and valuing their individual contributions to the whole. They are firmly focused on the desired business outcome as they guide, monitor, and grow each individual in the process of achieving results.
Great Leaders catapult organizations to a higher level. They are hard to find and hard to keep. Leadership is what they do. Great Leaders motivate, inspire, build trust, and create a sense of community. They are typically transportable and don’t require deep subject matter expertise to achieve sustainable results. Professional development and personal awareness are the tools that fuel the progression from Good to Great leadership. Great leaders are not just knowledgeable about the people they manage, they are genuinely interested in helping them reach their full potential. They are diversity champions in practice (regardless of the company culture). Their comfort with their own strengths and weaknesses promotes an openness that inspires trust and creates a sense of community. Their followers are fully engaged and motivated to contribute their best. Great Leaders maximize the efforts of everyone and consistently achieve sustainable results.
Transformational Leaders sit at the pinnacle of the leadership effectiveness hierarchy. Leaders who reach this level, typically leave a legacy of extraordinary impact that extends well beyond their life. These are the people who literally change the status quo. As evidenced by this quote from one of the greatest leaders in history, Transformational Leaders know they need people…“Never Forget! You can design, create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” ̶ Walt Disney; and they change the status quo by appealing to their followers’ values and sense of higher purpose. Disney’s dream for the creation of Disneyland changed the entertainment industry forever. Under Walt Disney’s leadership, a huge number of vastly differing people poured their hearts and souls into Disneyland. Together they created a magical vacation experience; an experience made possible only by the combined efforts of every employee (from the animators to the maintenance crews). They created The Happiest Place on Earth!
Like Disney, Transformational Leaders create an electric environment fueled by a shared vision that connects their followers at a core level. These leaders have a vested interest in the people they lead; accepting and honoring their differences as contributions. They serve and respect their followers in an inclusive environment that dissolves barriers and inspires cutting edge outcomes. In short, the result is nothing less than magic.
So how do we inspire Transformational Leadership? We don’t. We create it. First by encouraging and rewarding the leadership instincts and skills that already exist, then by providing development opportunities through personal awareness, professional development, and coaching. From there, we grow the potential by practicing the attributes that define Transformational Leaders.
Abby Foster is the founder of Ahnimisha Consulting. Abby blogs at www.ahnimisha.com, and is a generational dynamics trainer, Human Capital consultant, and a certified Birkman© consultant. Abby delivers workshops, training seminars, professional coaching, and consulting services utilizing proven tools and techniques to help company’s maximize the efforts of every employee in today’s multigenerational workforce.
Contact Abby directly at email@example.com