• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Special gifts of transformational leaders (1)

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The hero is the leader who kindles a great light to the world through his own world” (Felix Adler).

A lot has been written and published about transformational leadership since the concept of a “transformational leader” was first defined and explained by James MacGregor Burns in 1978. The general approach taken by him, as well as well as several other researchers and industrial psychologists is one of identifying a transformational leader as the leader with certain special gifts. These special gifts, which are more aptly called personal traits and behaviours enable the leader to inspire and motivate a team or organisation to rally around a common vision or goal.

This approach is simple enough to understand, especially as the major theme of every leadership activity is to “move” or “influence” people to do something. The transformational part is a bit tougher, because it means that the change that the leader facilitates must not only be sustainable. It must also be largely irreversible. Transformation implies such a radical change that the end result cannot in any way be compared with the starting point. For instance, in nature, transformation takes place when an unattractive caterpillar (larva of butterfly) changes into a colourful and beautiful butterfly. That transformation is irreversible and shows a complete radical change.

When transformation is applied to leadership it implies radical change as well, hence the focus of leadership coaching on personal development and transformational thinking for leaders. The idea of leadership coaching is essentially to unlock and unleash the potentials of the leader. It is to help to nurture the gifts that the leader possesses so that they are sustainable value to the team he leads.

There are in this regard two great “gifts of sight” that a transformational leader must possess. The first is clarity of vision. The second is the capacity to focus. Both vision and focus relate to sight. Specifically they both emphasise the presence and need of ‘seeing’ by a leader who wishes to inspire, facilitate and manage desirable change.

Importantly, leadership vision provides a futuristic view of where the leader and his people are going (direction and destination). Leadership focus on the other hand suggests immediate and intense concentration on the factors that would continue to empower the vision and ensure its accomplishment (strategy and process).

True leadership starts with a great vision. But leadership vision is not enough to compel and sustain desirable change. Vision alone cannot bring about goal attainment. A strong focusing system is required to enable the channelling of efforts and resources to the realisation of the goals. What this means is that there is the need for a good leader to learn and practice great focusing skills, in order to focus on issues that will shape the thoughts, behaviours and actions of both the leader and the team in pursuing the vision.

In reality, a great personal vision is the spark that ignites and inspires a good leader to have a clear focus. While vision is futuristic and therefore somewhat related to far sightedness, focus implies deliberate concentration in the present on some specific details of the vision, which would bring it to pass eventually. Thus, personal vision and the capacity to focus are interrelated. These two special leadership gifts prove the ability of a leader to effectively give direction to others.

Some leaders are overtly big on personal vision, but are lacking in their ability to focus on the small details that would ensure that their goals can be achieved. To give a simple analogy, the managing director or the chief executive officer of a company would often be the leader of his corporate and/or management team. He must therefore have some clarity about corporate vision and strategy development in relation to organisational potentials, objectives and opportunities.

But, having corporate vision without ensuring the implementation through focused and appropriate change management strategies would not lead to goal achievement. To achieve goals, there must be the capacity to provide day-to-day overall leadership to the management, technical and operational teams within the organisation. That in fact would be the immediate focus of the leader, without which he would not be able to lead the company effectively.

A great benefit of leadership coaching is the presence and support of an experienced coach in facilitating the setting and achieving of goals. One of the most important roles of the coach in this regard is to develop strategies for coaching engagements that will enhance the performance of leaders that are willing to turn their leadership strength to excellence. This is achieved practically by focusing attention on what triggers and amplifies personal energies in terms of excitement, enthusiasm and passion.

Leaders must learn to focus on what will make the biggest impact and communicate that information relentlessly, so that everyone else knows what their own focus should be. The visionary leader must therefore possess the capacity to focus attention on areas where results are most needed. He can then develop strategies, draw up plans, allocate resources and orchestrate activities that prove most decisive. The challenge of leadership coaching resides within improving that focusing system. You can read more about the transformational power of coaching at www.ceedcoaching.com.

Emmanuel Imevbere