Sunday, December 28, 2014

How Creative Should You Allow Employees to Be?

Xiaomeng Zhang and Kathryn Bartol wrote in a 2010 article that “given increasingly turbulent environments, heightened competition, and unpredictable technological change, more and more managers are coming to realize that they should encourage their employees to be creative. Considerable evidence indicates that employee creativity can fundamentally contribute to organizational innovation, effectiveness, and survival.”
Creativity doesn’t mean employees relaxing in their chairs, staring at the ceiling and coming up with ‘head-in-the-clouds’ creations that are of absolutely no use to them or the organisation – but they look good on paper. For creativity to take place, employees must take a mature approach to finding effective solutions. There are responsibilities and behaviours that must exist at the leadership level and the employee level for this to be a win-win for everyone.
Zang and Bartol define creativity as “the production of novel and useful ideas by an individual or by a group of individuals working together. For creativity to occur in organizations, managers need to support and promote it, as they are the individuals who are most knowledgeable about which employee work outcomes should be creative and they have considerable influence over the context within which creativity can occur.”
Some of the key behaviours that must be embedded within the organisational culture are; the ability for the leaders and employees to have meaningful and transparent people conversations; employees must be involved in the decision making processes and employees must be empowered to be creative in the first place. These three behaviours alone will have a significant impact on developing a truly creative culture in the organisation.
Studies also have provided evidence for a positive relationship between supportive leadership and creativity, and a negative relationship between controlling leadership and employee creativity (e.g., Amabile et al., 2004; Madjar et al., 2002; Oldham & Cummings, 1996; Tierney & Farmer, 2002, 2004). In considering broader leadership approaches, some studies have shown support for a positive impact of transformational leadership on employee creativity (e.g., Howell & Avolio, 1993; Jung, Chow, & Wu, 2003; Keller, 1992; Shin & Zhou, 2003; Sosik, Kahai, & Avolio, 1998), but others have produced contrary results (e.g., Basu & Green, 1997; Jaussi & Dionne, 2003; Kahai, Sosik, & Avolio, 2003).
Creativity should be taking place in all organisations; at all levels and all of the time – there should be an embedded mind-set that encourages and recognises creativity. There will be some industry sectors where creativity will be the norm, advertising been one, but creativity goes beyond the ‘product’ and looks at all aspects of the business.
According to Ahearne, Mathieu, and Rapp’s (2005) conceptualization, empowering leadership involves highlighting the significance of the work, providing participation in decision making, conveying confidence that performance will be high, and removing bureaucratic constraints. These behaviours are conceptually highly relevant to creativity. For instance, it is clear from the creativity literature that participation in decision making and perceptions of autonomy are vital preconditions for creative outcomes (Amabile, 1988; Amabile et al., 2004). Inherent in the combination of empowering leadership behaviours is delegating authority to an employee, so as to enable the employee to make decisions and implement actions without direct supervision or intervention (Bass, 1985; Jung et al., 2003). Given the nature of creativity, such delegation helps establish a work context wherein an employee is encouraged and empowered to explore diverse creative alternatives before (perhaps) settling on a viable creative solution (Amabile et al., 1996). Zang and Bartol define empowering leadership as the process of implementing conditions that enable sharing power with an employee by delineating the significance of the employee’s job, providing greater decision-making autonomy, expressing confidence in the employee’s capabilities, and removing hindrances to performance.
In an ‘ideal’ organisation, creativity is not something that has to get any special attention – employees are recruited not just for their skills and experiences, but for their instinctive desire to be creative and they then work in departments that have embedded behaviours that support a creative culture and better still have leaders who, not just implement but, recognise creative excellence.
Zhang, X. and Bartol, K.M. (2010). Linking Empowering Leadership and Employee Creativity: The Influence of Psychological Empowerment, Intrinsic Motivation, and Creative Process Engagement. Academy of Management Journal; Vol. 53, Issue 1, p.107-128.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

How Effective Has Your Corporate Social Responsibility Been This Year?

Marc Epstein, Adriana Buhovac and Kristi Yuthas highlight in a 2010 article how “executives recognize the importance of social and environmental responsibility, corporate sustainability, but they seldom implement it successfully. The challenge lies in how to actually integrate sustainability into operational and capital investment decision making and implement it successfully in large, complex, for-profit organizations.”
The global financial crisis has put the brakes on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in many organisations, and even many of the ‘big boys’ have struggled to focus on effective CSR – where the success of CSR can be measured in the local community. 
Epstein argues that, to improve the sustainability strategy implementation process, managers should carefully identify and measure key performance drivers included among the various inputs and processes. The drivers of the model include:
  • External context (regulatory and geographical),
  • Internal context (mission, corporate strategy, corporate organizational structure, organizational culture, and systems),
  • Business context (industry sector, customers, and products), and
  • Human and financial resources.
Before you can ‘give back’ you have to be secure yourself – that’s regardless of whether you are an organisation or an individual, that’s why it’s often ‘mature’ organisations and individuals who are in a real position to give back socially. SME businesses must be sure that their CSR initiatives, however well-meaning, add to their sustainable growth; otherwise both they and the community they are trying to help may suffer in the medium to long-term.
Recently, the Foundation for Applied Research (FAR) of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA®) sponsored a research study to examine how leading corporations integrate economic, social, and environmental impacts into day-to-day management decision making. The research focused on four companies:
  1. Nike, the world’s leading designer, marketer, and distributor of athletic products and clothing;
  2. Procter & Gamble (P&G), one of the world’s leading branded consumer products companies;
  3. The Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement specialty retailer; and
  4. Nissan North America, a unit of Nissan Motor Co., a leading global auto manufacturer.
Epstein et al highlight how “in all four companies, there are fewer conflicts for senior and middle managers in balancing social, environmental, and financial performance because these conflicts are resolved higher up in the organization and are well integrated into the informal systems. Upper management has bought in to the benefits relating to sustainability. Thus people are able to make certain trade-offs because they know their leaders will be supportive. Corporate responsibility is one of Nike’s nine strategic priorities. The CEO and other company leaders support CR intensively and consider it an enhancing element in reaching strategic goals. In fact, leadership engagement is number one. ‘Making a sustainable decision that negatively impacts margins is not so wrong, but they have to inform me because we can offset this somewhere else,’ one vice president explained.”
All four of these organisations are seasoned, mature businesses where corporate social responsibility adds to their ‘business value’ by allowing them to be seen actively supporting the communities where they work, hence this is a win-win for everyone involved. But don’t forget that these are profit driven organisations and everything they do ultimately links back to their corporate strategy and meeting their stakeholder requirements and expectations, many of which are financially driven
Epstein et al highlight how “companies sometimes consider social impacts more difficult to measure than financial results because they’re often intangible, hard to quantify, and difficult to attribute to a specific organization, and they have a long time horizon. This difficulty often presents obstacles to producing compelling evidence of impact and mission achievement.”
Both common sense and years of research tell us what we already know – that supporting local communities where you do business can do nothing but help your businesses sustainable growth. It’s the identification of effective corporate socially responsible projects and then the effective implantation of these projects so that they really make a difference on the ground that distinguishes ‘good’ CSR from the rest. Hopefully next year organisations around the globe can put a little more strategic thought into CSR and identify the win-wins that many businesses and communities need.
As Epstein, Buhovac and Yuthas conclude “an organizational culture supporting sustainability decisions can inspire and motivate employees to take sustainability obligations seriously. In addition, in their recruitment and development practices, companies may seek to create in their employees a passion and commitment to sustainability. This leads to contributions that are good for society, the environment, and the company’s bottom line.”
Epstein, M.J., Buhovac, A.R. and Yuthas, K. (2010). Implementing Sustainability: The Role of Leadership and Organisational Culture. Strategic Finance, Vol. 91, Issue 10, p. 41-47.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Are We Developing Effective Future Leaders?

William Maxwell highlights how “many of us are paying an unprecedented price for the rightsizing of the 1990s and the resulting abandonment of leadership development. We seem to be struggling to find capable, caring, C-suite leaders. In some cases, we see corporations seeking ‘boomerang’ CEOs and luring other C-suite executives out of retirement,” (p.5).
Although there has been a deluge of theories and research on leadership development one has to ask just how much of a real difference all this work has had ‘on the ground’ inside organisations. For example Googling leadership development will give you 84,500,000 responses, that’s over 84 million, so one would be excused for thinking that there must have been a positive shift in leadership in the last few decades.
Yet if one looks at the different groups on Linkedin focused specifically with leadership you’ll find over 90% of their discussions are focused criticising the current lack of effective leadership around the globe and on finding ways to improve leadership – even with over 84 million suggested ways of improving leadership out there already. So what is the real problem – it seems employees accept that their leadership can be significantly improved and there are plenty of solutions to choose from – so why aren’t we making progress?
Maxwell suggests that “the problem runs deeper, however, to the roots of leadership development throughout organizations. Just think about it. If we can reorganize companies, merge, acquire, or dispose of others, and compete globally, then why can't we develop better leaders? The reason is simple. We think that it is someone else's job or that we can buy C-suite and other leadership talent. Some might argue that I exaggerate the current leadership situation, but the subject does merit greater dialogue.”
Maxwell mentions one word at the end – ‘dialogue’ – and in the last twenty years one thing I have found inside companies is that they very rarely sit down and openly discuss leadership issues. I’ve found that 99% of employees know what makes a great leader. Get them in a room – ask them the very basic question – and they will fill a flipchart with the right behavioural traits and skills a great leader needs.
If you then ask them how many of these traits and skills they apply on a constant basis, day-to-day, all will admit that they don’t apply them constantly – and this is where the problem with leadership lies. It’s not that we need any more theories or research – we all know what it feels like to be led by a great leader – the problem is found on the day to application and implementation of the traits and skills we all agree should be there.
Maxwell reminds us that “we are accountable for developing the best leaders possible and, without question, the time is now for a ‘leadership renaissance.’ Several books on leadership preach leading by example, being role models, and inspiring our people. Inevitably, many of us do not embrace or demonstrate the challenge. After all, being visible, accessible, and accountable can be time-consuming and frightening.”
One of the quickest and simplest solutions you can implement today within your organisation is to get your leadership peers together and having an open and honest discussion about leadership in your organisation. What’s working and what isn’t – how much you all really know about the effect your style has on your staff and on your internal customers. Discuss leadership experiences you have recently had – both good and bad – share stories and ask questions. You’ll be amazed what you will learn and how this simple discussion over a cup of coffee can reignite your leadership in the right direction – where as a group you will start defining and learning effective leadership in your organisation. It takes guts and courage to start these dialogue series – but you’ll be amazed of the impact just talking about effective leadership can have on everyone; and over time you will start to have a sustainable influence on changing leadership and the organisation for the better.
Maxwell mentions that “yes, we think someone else should take responsibility for developing our future leaders. Only our respective C-suite teams can do something about developing tomorrow's leaders. The research is compelling. Change, driven and led from the top, truly transforms and sustains any business.”
So you can start today – start actively asking yourself how effective is your leadership – learn not just to manage by walking around – but learn to lead by walking around too. Learn from your staff and your peers and most importantly regularly have transparent dialogue about leadership in your organisation. This will have an immediate impact if you have the courage to question just how effective your leadership is and if you have an overwhelming desire to grasp the opportunity you have been given to become the best leader you can be.
Maxwell, W.J. (2006). Leaders developing leaders. Human Resource Planning, Vol. 29 Issue 4, p.5-7.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Do We Plan for the Future?

I’m reminded of the old saying “we can’t choose where and when we are born, but we can choose how we live.”
There has always been unemployment and individual suffering throughout the globe – but in the late 20th Century there was a time when life-time employment was offered by many organisations, and though this didn’t offer luxury, it offered a form of personal security. Maybe because of the suffering most countries endured during the World Wars and the need to rebuild, there was a conscious selflessness at the time to build a ‘home’ economy that would support the masses. Even more interesting is that two of the best economies to emerge from WWII weren’t from the victors but from the vanquished, i.e. Germany and Japan.
The recent global financial crisis has affected everyone and has forced many countries, businesses and individuals to re-assess how they view their futures. We will all know of people who have lost their jobs, know of people who are still struggling to find work and will have seen our disposable income decline. So what can we learn from these recent events?
Probably the most important lesson is something we all know, but seem to be bad at ‘owning’ when things go bad – and that is that economies and businesses operate in cycles. Just as products have life-cycles so do economies, businesses and ultimately (and obviously) so do we.
Planning for the future involves planning your career, it involves planning your financial security and always having a plan b, c, and d. There will already be a huff and a puff from some, who will highlight that you have to have a good job before you can even consider thinking of financial security – since when you are living from hand-to-mouth, financial security is just a dream rather than a reality.
But I would challenge that thinking – self-fulfilling prophecies will never disappoint and if you believe that you can never get out of your ‘hole’ – whether that’s being trapped in a job, or trapped in a low-income, higher expenditure cycle, then you won’t get out. But that doesn’t mean you’ve made the right decision.
Futures are defined by opportunity and attitude. Opportunities will always present themselves – but not necessarily when you want them too. You just have to be open to both seeing opportunities and creating your own opportunities. We’re not talking about million dollar deals – just opportunities to advance your career and your financial earnings.
Attitude is part nature and part nurture. If you’re born into a family that doesn’t believe there is any hope to succeed at anything – when it’s unlikely you will, at least until you’re old enough and hopefully strong enough to challenge that hypothesis – though sadly for many, by the time they are old enough to challenge the negative thinking, it is way too late to do anything.
For those born into this group, it’s up to you to stop the cycle and give your kids hope and ambition to move up and out of the cycle of despair. There are plenty of success stories around the globe, but ‘future success’ needs to be driven from the parents at the child’s early stage of development when beliefs are being formed.
For the rest, you have to realise that a career is a journey and quite a long journey. It is highly unlikely that it will develop as quickly as you would like and you need to be prepared for ups and downs – never losing sight of your own personal career goals. As soon as you give up on your future, then don’t expect anything more than what you have – until you reignite the ‘fire’ and find that positive attitude that will drive you forward.
Careers are not easy and have to be constantly worked at. Even in the large multi-nationals where promotion after so many years is often guaranteed, you still have to work hard and identify and create opportunities that can fast-track your dreams.
Finally, I remember my Mother telling me when I was around 8 years old that my aim in life should be to save enough to be able to live off the interest – but with global interest rates being so low, being able to save enough to live off the interest is an impossibility, expect for a very, very few who can earn mega-millions within certain professions. So building a solid financial foundation that you can build your life and retirement on becomes a core personal goal – best developed when you are young and worst started today. So planning your career should go hand-in hand with a solid financial plan in order to make the most of life and minimise the need to struggle when times get tough.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

How Do Organisations Create Stress in the Workplace?

I was fascinated when I found there’s a journal entitled ‘Work and Stress’ and in a 2009 article Raymond Randall, Karina Neilsen and Sturle Tvedt wrote that “organizations and researchers often encounter difficulties when evaluating organizational level stress management interventions. When interventions fail, often it is unclear whether the intervention itself was ineffective, or whether problems with implementation processes were to blame.” They highlight how “in current European legislation there is a clear emphasis on the use of organizational-level interventions (changes in the design, organization, and management of work) as a way of improving working conditions and tackling problems such as work stress.”
Stress is a topic that is rarely discussed in most businesses and would be considered a ‘negative’ reaction to ‘normal’ work pressures by many managers throughout the world. With the world still struggling from the global financial crisis and further economic recessions on the horizon – should employees feel more stressed anyway, and what should organisations be doing about it if anything?
Individual reactions to stress will always vary and will be determined by many influencing factors at a specific point in time – remembering that employees will bring personal issues to work that if not identified can lead to stress at work depending on the organisational culture and how ‘safe’ they feel discussing personal issues that may affect performance.
Randall et al highlight how “several studies have discussed the importance of employees’ perceptions of involvement and participation in determining the success of an intervention. These constructs appear to be multi-faceted since they appear to be important at both the design stage and the implementation stage, and at a local level and an organizational level (e.g. Nytrø et al., 2000). Participation also plays a major role in well-known stress intervention theories such as the German Health Circles (Aust & Ducki, 2004) and risk management approaches to work stress (e.g. Cox et al., 2000). Participation may help to ensure employee buy-in and commitment and make use of employees’ expertise, thus improving the chances of intervention success (Kompier, Cooper, & Geurts, 2000; Kompier, Geurts, Grundemann, Vink, & Smulders, 1998).”
What I find fascinating with this work is that it takes all this research to determine what most would think is very obvious when it comes to change and minimising stress – it's all about communication, communication, communication. Letting people know what’s going on and keeping them involved are the cornerstones for successful implementation of anything – and by being transparent and keeping involved any stresses, both real and perceived, are reduced.
Around the world management for some odd reason miss the very basic concept that stress will always be minimised in an organisational environment where employees feel ‘safe’ to speak their mind – to discuss issues in a non-threatening, transparent environment.
A lot of organisational stress is caused by the failure of management to communicate on key issues that affect employees and instead for some misguided reason prefer to leave them in a state of uncertainty where many stresses are in fact ‘non-founded’ perceptions driven by a way too creative grapevine – creating too many negative self-fulfilling prophecies that end up not only harming individuals but the organisation as well.
Unfortunately it’s poorly run organisations where stress exists and but is not recognised by the management as anything other than the sign of a weak employee – someone who can’t hack-it in a tough business world. These organisations are often run by command and control leaders who have no empathy for an individual who feels any form of stress – even when the stress is created by an employee who only wants to do their very, very best.
In a healthy organisation there should be healthy levels of stress – that means that employees like the organisation are being pushed to be the very best they can be. Most of the time this should be exciting and motivational, but there’s no denying that at some points in time there will be levels of stress, but these should be recognised and embraced.
Randall, R., Nielsen, K. and Tvedt, S. D. (2009). The development of five scales to measure employees' appraisals of organizational-level stress management interventions. Work and Stress, Vol. 23, Issue 1, p. 1-23.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Do We Really Understand What Talent Really Is?

Cindy McCauley and Michael Wakefield remind us that “today's businesses face increased global competition, shifting markets, and unforeseen events. No wonder they are finding it more difficult than ever to attract, develop, and retain the skilled workers they need. Human resources (HR) departments can set the stage for success by hiring and training capable employees. But developing those personnel into dynamic, motivated, long-term participants in the company's processes must be the responsibility of all management, from CEO to floor supervisor.”
Yet as many sports team’s know, success isn’t just about recruiting the most talented players – it’s about creating a team of people that have talent in specific positions – the positions you need for your sport; and recruiting the right talented people that can work together in a positive organisational culture to achieve your short and long-term strategic goals. So talent management isn’t just about talent – it’s about developing the right talent that can work effectively as a team.
McCauley and Wakefield highlight how “talent management, which incorporates the cooperation and communication of managers at all levels, has become an imperative in the face of today's business challenges. In addition, talent management processes must be more strategic, connected, and broad-based than ever before. Effective talent management becomes even more important with the forthcoming talent shortage as many experienced leaders approach retirement. Globally, fewer and fewer managers and professionals are ready to fill these leadership roles, and companies worldwide find themselves competing for a smaller pool of talent. Businesses must have the ability to identify the most talented individuals, provide them with the necessary training and experiences, and retain valuable employee’s long term.”
Developing talent and retaining talent requires the investment of a significant amount of quality time to have ‘people conversations’ in order to really understand the talent you have, and understand their aspirations and expectations within your organisation.
Talented people look for a lot more than just financial reward – these people have their own future expectations and ambitions and organisations ignore what drives these people at their peril. Retaining talent should not be difficult – but organisations often make it difficult because after they’ve found the talent and attracted it – they then ignore it for the most part, often until it is too late and they move on to greener pastures offering jobs that meet the expectations you simply didn’t become aware of.
According to a recent benchmarking study on talent management conducted by the American Productivity and Quality Center and the Center for Creative Leadership, organizations that excel in talent management follow eight best practices:
1) Defining ‘talent management’ broadly.
2) Integrating the various elements of talent management into a comprehensive system.
3) Focusing talent management on their most highly-valued talent.
4) Getting CEOs and senior executives committed to talent management work.
5) Building competency models to create a shared understanding of the skills and behaviours the organization needs and values in employees.
6) Monitoring talent system-wide to identify potential talent gaps.
7) Excelling at recruiting, identifying, and developing talent, as well as performance management and retention.
8) Regularly evaluating the results of their talent management system.
Talent management should link to some form of succession planning that is helping the organisation develop talent not just for the short-term but for the long-term as well. You’re more likely to retain staff in the long-term if you actually think long-term very early in their careers. This means have solid long-term business strategies, that may be no more than visions – but visions that help define potential future organisation structures and hence the opportunities for different talents within the business – and then matching the organisations dreams with those of your employees.
Every job is crucial in an organisation and hence every person within your organisation should have the talent you need for them to perform their jobs and grow themselves, their roles and in doing so, help grow the organisation. Some organisations have a two tier system where they have high-potentials with talent and ‘the rest’ – the danger with these kind of systems is that you can be giving the wrong message to the ‘b’ team and create demotivation and a two-tier culture, which does not build a cohesive team and will not give you optimal results.
McCauley and Wakefield remind us that “wise leaders do not leave strategy or the bottom line to mere chance. They also know they can't just hope everything somehow works out with the people in their company. By incorporating comprehensive talent management, an organization can assemble the right people it needs to manage and lead in the future.”
McCauley, C. and Wakefield, M. (2006). Talent Management in the 21st Century: Help your company find, develop and keep its strongest workers. Journal for Quality and Participation. Vol. 29, Issue 4, p.4-7.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

What is a Global Mind-Set?

Andrew L. Molinsky, Thomas H. Davenport, Bala Iyer, and Cathy Davidson state that “executives often feel inauthentic when their behaviour conflicts with their ingrained values and beliefs, and doubly uncomfortable when others assume that it is a true reflection of who they are. They may also feel incompetent, anxious and embarrassed about acting in a way so far outside their comfort zone. Deeper down, they may feel frustrated and angry that they had to make changes in the first place. After all, managers don’t usually have to adapt their behaviour to the needs of their subordinates; most often it’s the other way around. Together, these feelings can prevent executives from making a successful code switch, thus imperiling their careers and their companies’ success.”
Some organisations try to develop global leaders within their ‘home’ culture through various forms of training and development initiatives. The unfortunate truth is that there is no substitute for being in the ‘new’ culture and having to deal with a ‘live’ situation on the ground – this is something that can’t be replicated in a classroom. What the classroom can teach is; what to look for, what to research and make them aware of the discussions that need to take place with the stakeholder.
The best way to develop global leaders is firstly to let them hear from experienced global leaders – people who have had experience entering new countries and hearing their key learning points.
The second way, after having talked with global leaders is to give the potential ‘candidate’ exposure and experience through assignments in a different country as global followers – that’s the quickest way for them to experience the culture without any threat to their career and the ‘overseas’ organisation.  
The problem with the classroom is that it can’t substitute for a totally different culture – where often the ‘trainers’ themselves don’t help the situation as they are from the home country and don’t speak and act in the way their international counterparts would act.
A global mind-set is all about research, flexibility and the ability to adapt to new and seemingly ‘strange’ management and leadership techniques that are an integral part of a countries culture.
Where most ‘new’ inexperienced global leaders go wrong is assuming that their style is best – and since they have the ‘leadership’ position, the organisation and its stakeholders must change and adapt to meet their style. This will always lead to complete disaster for everyone involved – where the leader just gets frustrated with, what they see as, the organisations inability to see how effective their leadership style is and adapt accordingly – or at least that’s the internal dialogue that they have with themselves.
And the stakeholders just get ‘annoyed’ with this ‘outside’ coming in without any respect for their traditions, customs, culture and past successes.
There are enough real life case studies of organisations that have failed on the global stage by trying to ‘force’ their leadership culture on the international stage, and at the same time case studies of those organisations that have been successful.
Patience and professionalism are a key component to developing global leaders who can adapt and adopt a global mind-set; where there is no substitute to experiencing differing cultures on the ground. Even the most experienced and adaptable global leaders will still make mistakes, as all leaders do, but it’s how they react in the ‘culture’ of their environment – rather than maybe their natural, instinctive reaction from their home country – that differentiates between the good and poor global leader.  
As Andrew Molinsky et al conclude “being culturally fluent means being able to enter a new context, master the norms, and feel comfortable doing so. In situations where executives perceive a serious threat to their competence and identity, they often show a strong psychological resistance to appropriate behavior. Learning to be effective at cultural code-switching is the key to becoming a truly global leader.”
Molinsky, A.L., Davenport, T.H., Iyer, B. and Davidson, C. (2012). Three Skills Every 21st-Century Manager Needs. Harvard Business Review, January – February.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What do Transformational Leaders Really Do?

Many organisations talk about believing in transformational leadership, but what should the landscape look like in an organisation with transformation leaders. How do you know if you are really being led by a transformational leader – or is it by someone who just likes the sound of the word ‘transformational’, but doesn’t really know what it means to be transformational in practice?
Some traits of a transformational leader include;
 1) Transformational leaders try to develop followers’ full potential (e.g., Bass, 1985; Johnson & Dipboye, 2008); therefore, followers may tend to feel that their organization is effective and that it can provide future opportunity and development. As such, it is expected that followers will be more likely to stay in the organization because they are satisfying their needs for self-categorization/self-identity, and they have a sense of being unique from other members in society. Organizational identification is therefore likely to be strengthened.

2) Kark and Shamir (2002) proposed that transformational leaders influence two distinct levels of their followers’ self-concept: the relational and the collective self. Followers come to identify with their particular leader through the relational aspects of the followers’ self-concept, while organizational or social identification is influenced by priming of their collective self.

3) Transformational leadership behaviors include inspirational motivation, idealized influence, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. Among three types of transactional leadership behaviors, passive management by exception (MBEP) is considered to be a passive transactional leadership behavior, while active management by exception (MBEA) and contingent reward leadership behaviors are considered ‘active’ transactional leadership, as demonstrated empirically in a number of studies (e.g., Avolio, Bass, Walumbwa; Zhu, 2004; Bycio, Hackett, & Allen, 1995; Zhu, Riggio, Avolio, Sosik, 2011).

4) Transformational leaders possess great referent and inspirational power (Bass, 1985) which enables them to gain the respect, admiration, and trust of their followers. They are also seen as role models who exert significant and positive influence on followers that creates a sense of meaningfulness (Bass, 1985). Employees who experience a greater sense of meaning from their work are likely to feel more empowered (Spreitzer, 1995) and proud of being a member of the organization, and thereby enhance their identification with the organization (Koberg et al., 1999).

5) Transformational leaders align followers’ self-identities with their organization’s values and mission (Shamir et al., 1993).

6) Transformational leaders’ enthusiasm and optimism can build team spirit and can also provide meaning and challenge to followers’ work or tasks, enhancing followers’ feelings of impact, competence, meaning, and autonomy associated with psychological empowerment. All these factors can contribute to organization members’ feeling pride from being a part of their organization, which consequently increases their identification with the organization (Ashford et al., 2008).

7) Transformational leaders also show individualized consideration, such as listening attentively and paying close attention to their followers’ needs for achievement and growth. Such behaviors encourage followers to take on increasingly more responsibilities in order to develop to their full potential (Bass, 1985), thereby increasing their perceived competence associated with psychological empowerment (Spreitzer, 1995); and

8) Furthermore, transformational leaders provide followers with greater opportunities for decision latitude, challenge, and responsibility, which will cause followers to feel more confident and meaningful, and therefore psychologically empowered. This helps to satisfy followers’ need for affiliation within the organization by improving their self-esteem, which eventually may enhance their identification with the organization (Ashford et al., 2008).
This list isn’t exhaustive, but gives a pretty good indication what you should ‘feel’ and ‘experience’ if you are really being led by a transformational leader – the sad part is, few will find that they are led in this way.
There is still so much scope for improving leadership performance around the globe. The ‘blue print’ for effective leadership is available from many sources for all to see – it just needs leaders to start applying it.
When you see the benefits to the employee and the organisation – you can’t help asking what the problem is and why ‘boards’ and other stakeholders aren’t encouraging this leadership style.
Zhu, W., Sosik, J.J., Riggio, R.E., and Yang, B. (2012). Relationships between Transformational and Active Transactional Leadership and Followers’ Organizational Identification: The Role of Psychological Empowerment. Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management. p.186-212.