The world was irrefutably changed post the Covid crisis. The two years of lockdown witnessed an unprecedented rise in design thinking, intelligent innovation, and creativity.
Reinforced entrepreneurial spirit rose through ranks. Old structures and systemic mindsets were transformed for good. Organizations and leaders alike had to re-think every single aspect of their strategy and adapt accordingly.
But, how can individual leaders adopt a complete shift effectively? How can leaders guide their teams and organizations through such unprecedented changes with ease and impact?
The answer, perhaps, can be described in a three-fold approach-
The first step to enabling any type of organizational transformation has to be inspiring a united sense of purpose, or a collective vision for the entire organization.
This can be implemented by formulating thoughtful and research-based strategies. These strategies, of course, will need to accommodate unpredictable variables like the constantly changing market conditions along with the customer needs and preferences. They then need to be implemented effectively through practices that align well with the bigger picture in mind.
This, of course, further calls for a core repositioning of the business model, and the creation of fresh, new avenues. All these changes demand the leader take charge and hit the ground running. A leader needs to not only talk the talk but also effectively walk the walk.
But, even before we can get into the HOW of things, it is important to define-
What constitutes a transformational leader?
Perhaps the one quality that separates great leaders from a lot of exceptional leaders can be summed up under one umbrella - leadership acumen.
Simply put, leadership acumen refers to a set of leadership qualities. Qualities, like an individual’s character, remain unchanged in the face of changing situations and adversaries.
Thus, these characteristics have more to do with the leader’s personal values that can then act as an anchor for them to fall back upon.
The past two years have fanned a revolution the leadership world wasn’t prepared for. The irreversible dependence on technology for completing even the simplest of tasks has given a whole new meaning to ‘thinking outside the box.’
Leaders across industries have had to come up with strategies and business models to accommodate the complete digitalization of office work.
Furthermore, leaders are also faced with the task of dealing with issues like systematic issues, climate change, social inequality, and the psychological impact of remote and/or hybrid working on their team members. All this while also maintaining profitability can feel overwhelming.
Furthermore, leaders of this new world order also are facing the changing face of leadership, as defined by the upcoming generation of workers - namely, Gen Z. Studies show that the younger workforce wants leaders who are not only successful but also show qualities like empathy and social awareness.
Thus, leaders of today have their tasks cut out for them. They need to spearhead transformation at the ground level, while also inspiring change across channels and verticals.
And, this transformation requires irrefutable proof of concrete systematic changes - ranging from acquisitions to disposals and even concrete structural redesign.
Such a transformation also demands considerable technological and cultural changes. And leaders need to initiate, inspire, and maintain the entire process with focus and zeal. Thus, transformational leaders are the ones who can walk the talk, every time.
How can leaders inspire and implement changes?
A leader can inspire, enable, and guide their teams toward transformational reforms in multiple ways. And each can be as unique as the leader itself. However, for the sake of simplifying and providing a blueprint, a strategic approach towards the said reforms can help monitor the progress effectively, while creating impactful reforms from the very start.
Here are three such effective strategies to help achieve the same-
1. Mindset matters
The first step towards enabling a transformation of any kind is nailing the mindset required to achieve it. Leaders need to embrace such mindset shifts to a ‘T.’ Only then can they truly inspire and lead their team down the road less traveled, with ease.
The bigger picture needs to act like the North star for leaders looking to bring about systematic and technological changes within their organization.
Unforeseen situations marred by unpredictable market conditions like a global pandemic often get in the way of even the best-laid plans. However, leaders who take the time to research and prepare for the predicted storms can actually understand the changing trends in time to anchor their teams’ path.
Impactful organizational transformation demands teams and companies alike to escape the existing systematic shackles of their current position, individual and collective performances, and a complete shift in capability building.
Such a radical approach further requires leaders to take difficult decisions, develop innovative thinking, and develop the ability to tackle complex situations with the swiftness of a wink.
The process is often complicated by the need to balance looking at the bigger picture while ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.
Thus, a transformational leader needs to be able to display agility, while keeping the long-term goals in mind. And, more often than not, this can prove to be a tricky act to juggle effectively.
So, how can a leader find the right balance?
For short-term problems with immediate consequences, there’s a well-known strategy made popular by Art Kleiner, Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, and Josie Thomson, in their bestseller leadership book. Coined as listening to the ‘wise advocate,’ it essentially means taking a third person’s perspective.
Perhaps the most effective way to weigh the pros- and cons- of any given situation is to get some distance. Leaders, when tackling complex issues, should remove themselves from the center of the conflict, mentally. This perceived distance can make it easier to develop an unbiased and practical solution.
A third person’s perspective allows one to consider the information available on the inside with the eyes of an outsider. Of course, this may prove to be easier said than done. However, it demands the leaders to tap into their intellect and come up with a solution that aligns with their integrity. The solutions may often be difficult to deliver and execute. And yet, it can help preserve the bigger picture in time.
Things that can help a leader approach a situation, this way can include-
- Including the doubts, feelings, and considerations of all the different stakeholders involved. Often, a customer’s needs can vary from what is being offered. And this simple realization can help the leader come up with better solutions.
- Acknowledging personal emotions and biases.
- Respecting and being mindful of their individual health and well-being. Physical wellness and mental competence play an undeniable role in a leader’s overall decision-making capability.
Once a decision has been reached, it becomes equally important to deliver and execute the same, effectively. Leaders need to explain the decision-making process with unshakeable clarity and transparency. Such an approach re-confirms your team’s faith in your leadership, while also inspiring a culture of transparency across the board.
2. Keep your ear to the ground
For a leader to bring about effective transformation from the root up, they need to keep their ears stuck to the ground at all times. From tapping into the client's needs, and expectations, to figuring out the issues faced by their teams overall, a leader needs to have eyes everywhere.
The past two years have brought to the surface, among other things, the importance of staying ahead of the curve. Transformational leaders have to continuously stay on their toes. They need to anticipate the ever-evolving trends to enable impactful transformation, from the inside out.
The onus of making the first round of ideation and strategy-making lies on the leaders and their board members. However, this process needs to be followed by an in-depth look into the existing trends, intimate stakeholder conversations, and an overall assessment of the effectiveness of the said plans.
Multiple rounds of discussions, re-iterations, and insightful conversations with both the external and internal stakeholders can ensure impactful transformation on an organizational scale.
As rigid as this structure may sound, it can prove to be an effective tool for bringing about impactful transformation. It not only empowers leaders to stay ahead of the curve but also makes space for manifesting radical changes.
The following tips can further help you implement the same effectively
- Encourage and ask questions. Make space for your stakeholders to feel welcomed in expressing themselves.
- Formulate and put mechanisms in place that allow you to systematically solicit views across the organizational chain of command.
- Deploy effective tools to ask, collect, analyze, and even visualize the data collected impactfully.
- Inspire open and detailed organizational conversations. In fact, whenever possible, develop and deploy strategic opportunists for your team to engage in conversations around various topics, like - ‘What’s next?’ Or ‘What should our collective approach be?’
- Such conversations can effectively take the transformation from within the C-suite lobbies to every nook and corner of your organization.
3. Encourage systematic leadership development
Organizational transformation, though, primarily a leader’s job, can never actually be achieved alone. Leaders need to employ, train, enable and empower vertical leaders across layers of the company.
From capability development to soft-skills training, these individual leaders will require training at every stage.
The C-Suite within every organization is responsible for not only choosing the right team leaders but also getting them ready for their new roles. Companies need internal monitoring systems to access and overlook individual growth and potential closely, to allow space for adequate changes and decisions.
Another important aspect of transformational leadership is that it cannot be achieved overnight. Sometimes spanning for more than half a decade, it’s a slow yet steady process. And, accordingly, senior leaders can choose the right middle management champions to fight the good fight. Senior leaders can then inspire and train their chosen warriors and provide them with the right tools required for the journey ahead.
Furthermore, senior leaders need to decide who should lead at what stage of the envisioned reformation.
So, how do leaders decide whom to trust and empower?
Here are a few questions that can help bring about clarity on the same-
- Which individual inspires the trust of the most influential stakeholder groups?
- What are the individual strengths and weaknesses of the contenders?
- What do the interpersonal dynamics of the chosen team members look like? Often, team members will end up complementing each other’s styles and skills better.
An ideal group of potential leaders would include both formal and informal leaders. Formal leaders already hold a leadership designation while informal leaders are people, who despite not holding any position of power, inspire others around them and can influence the course of a group's decision-making process. These people already are trusted and respected by their peers and can help speed up the execution of transformational strategies.
The new world order, following the two years of the pandemic, demands leaders to not just embrace but also enable transformational reforms, while staying true to traditional values. Leaders need to prove their mettle and help their organizations achieve unconventional and unprecedented success.
And they can achieve this by embracing their inner creativity and channeling it towards inspiring, empowering, and executing changes that transcend the existing order of things.
At Team Builders India, we truly do believe in helping visions come true. From empowering leadership development sessions, and insightful college to corporate sessions to highly engaging and absolutely immersive team-building experiences - both physical and virtual, we have something for everyone!