Jakarta, 25 October 2017 — For good reasons, transformational leadership is the most popular approach today for becoming a leader. So how do you start your transformation?
Research has shown that transformational leadership is an effective approach for people in almost any age group, position, and background to develop their leadership abilities. That is why it is the most popular approach to leadership development today.
The Power of Transformation
Among the executives, professionals, and emerging leaders I work with, I keep discovering just how powerful their transformation can be. In fact, I am continually amazed at what they learn to do after they commit themselves to experience their own leadership transformation.
It is no surprise, therefore, that we talk about personal power vs. positional power. In my work, I have learned that everyone who wants to develop their personal power to become a leader can do so. You don't need to wait until you are a manager or an executive.
So what does it take then, to get started in this transformation? That is, I think, the most important question to ask and to answer.
When I learned how to do systems thinking long ago, my mentor told me to always distinguish between the structure and the process of what you are analyzing. So let me also do that today.
First, let's take a look at how to start with your leadership transformation from a structural perspective, by offering four choices in quadrants, as shown in the Transformation Choice Model.
Transformation Choice Model
On the vertical axis, we distinguish an old mindset from a new mindset. This is because leadership and transformation are always about change, and most changes start in your mind. Remember how Einstein taught us that we cannot solve problems with the same mindset that we had when the problem was created?
On the horizontal axis, we distinguish old behavior from new behavior. This is because leadership means little until the change we want to see actually shows up in new behavior. It needs a change of behavior from old to new.
Now, when we combine our view of mindset change and behavior change, what can we learn from the quadrants in this simple model?
Delay. The first lesson is that many people do not like to change or transform until someone or something is pushing or pulling them to do so. History is full of people, including many at positions of great responsibility, who dismissed the need for change.
People who stick with their current mindset and behavior will Delay or entirely dismiss any need for transformation. Since you kept reading up to this point, I am pretty sure you are not in that category.
Drift. Then, we observe a lot of people who do change their behaviors, yet not their mindset. They follow what others are telling them to do, and jump on the bandwagon of new trends.
Their behavior change depends on what the current fashion or trend is. While some of those trends can be healthy or productive, they tend to easily Drift in and out of them, like with diets. Hence, there is no real transformation here, and more followership than leadership.
Dream. Look further, and you will see many people who think about change, even dream about it, however without new behaviors to show up for their thinking effort. Who is your favorite role model as a leader? Let's consider Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Did they just dream about change? No, they took many actions and showed up with visible changes in their behavior. To Dream and think about it is not enough.
Dive for Transformation
Dive. And then, we see the people who embrace a new mindset and adopt new behaviors as they take a deep dive into change. They demonstrate what it takes to start real transformation. The message of this model is that only when you commit to acquiring a new mindset together with new behaviors can we talk about a real transformation that powers leadership for change.
Honestly, I can only think of one choice to make that happen. It is to Dive, like you do when you dive into the deep end of a swimming pool, without feeling the ground under your feet.
I remember how, when I was seven years old and living in Houston, Texas, I learned to dive before I learned how to swim. Every time I dove into the deep end of the pool, I experienced a definite thrill of excitement during the moments before I could safely grab the other end of the pool.
Delaying, Drifting, and Dreaming won't get you started with the real thing. It takes commitment and an investment of yourself to start with transformation.
So, taking a structural approach, we have identified four choices when it comes to starting your transformation for leadership.
The purpose of quadrant models is to distinguish options and bring clarity for decision-making. This model is no different. As you are interested in leadership—because you are reading this—where are you in these four quadrants? Have you already taken the Dive for Transformation?
Let's now look at a process model to take our understanding a step further.
To discover what it takes to achieve the results we want to see, I love models that boil it down to three elements, as in a Venn diagram of three overlapping circles.
Transformation Process Model
From my experience, there are three essential steps to make leadership transformation happen, and they are shown in the Transformation Process Model.
Invest Yourself. First, you need to Invest Yourself in the change you want. This is what the metaphor of diving is all about. There is really nothing halfway that does the job. Leaders I work with Show Up with a decision, a commitment, an investment.
The first rule of leadership is that nothing happens until you show up for it. Transforming into a leader does not happen without you taking a decision and investing yourself in it.
Challenge Yourself. Second, the leaders I work with understand the need to challenge themselves. This is because 70% of their leadership growth is contributed by practicing what they learned from me in challenging assignments, outside their comfort zone.
Without challenging yourself, you may safely practice armchair leadership if you are satisfied with reading books and watching YouTube videos. Interesting and inspiring as they might be, they won't deliver on your leadership transformation. Only practice does.
After you experience your personal valleys of despair and overwhelm in between your mountains of inspiration and progress, you realize why it is so important to look up, to remind yourself of your purpose (your Why), your passion, and your values, and how to use them to empower yourself and others. Nothing can match challenging yourself to learn these lessons and grow your leadership to the next level.
Learn Together. Third, while most people start off with their leadership development by working on it as an inside job, you will need to treat it as a contact sport if you want to keep making progress. There are at least two good reasons for this. The first is that you, like everyone else, have blind spots, and you only discover these when you get feedback from other people.
The second reason is that leadership is all about influencing other people, by learning to stand in their shoes and taking their perspectives. How could you possibly learn that by working on it all by yourself? Leadership happens through communication and relationships. You need to Team Up with others to benefit from that kind of learning.
With this simple Transformation Process Model, I have summarized what it takes to start and make progress with your Leadership Transformation, based on my own experience and the experience of the leaders I have been working with up till now.
Taking Your Dive?
How does the model come across for you? Have you already engaged in all three essential parts of the process? Have you invested yourself into leadership transformation with a dive? Are you deliberately engaging in challenges to practice your leadership skills? And are you teaming up to learn together with other leaders?
My dream is to build a larger community of leaders who are taking their Dive for Transformation, who are committed to learning together how to become better leaders, and who are passionate to grow more leaders around them, in their business and their world. I am taking a dive for that every day, through my training and coaching work at TransformationFirst.Asia.
Summing up, there is only one important question, really. Are you already taking your Dive for Transformation as a leader? Let me know if you are, then I look forward to working with you.