I get asked all the time about what is required to show up as a Transformative Leader. They are usually very good questions because of how deceptively simple they seem. Can anyone be a Transformative Leader? What kind of knowledge, skills, or experience do you need? Do you have to have people reporting to you? Do you need to be in a particular position? Do you have to have a supportive boss? What if your boss is not a Transformative Leader? Where do you start?
I often emphasize that, while acquiring knowledge and skill and developing functional expertise may be enough to produce certain desired results, effective leadership goes well beyond knowing things and being able to do things. Being and showing up as an effective leader comprises a process of cultivating a series of realizations and personal choices in response to those realizations, the culmination of which produces much more profound impacts that any mere knowledge or skill ever could. That is precisely why most of my teaching and writing and speaking on the topic of leadership has to do with generating the right conversations and thought processes, ones out of which moments of truth are able to arise. It is in these moments of truth, when the reader, listener, or workshop participant makes a personal choice to truly commit to a cause and stay the course no matter what, that transformation begins in earnest.
What would you do if you had more time? What if you had a few more hours in a day, or a couple of more days in a week, that you could spend the way you wanted to? Would you travel more? Would you get going on accomplishing the important things you have been putting on hold? Would you fit more into your day or week? Would you stop and smell the roses more often?
What if you found out that you didn’t have much time left to live? How would you spend the remainder of your time? Would you make different choices? Would your priorities shift from what you consider to be what you have to do to what you want to do?
During the time we were living in Thailand, I remember shopping for a pair of jeans on one of our annual home leave visits back to the US and feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed by the vast number of options that had become available since the last time I bought some. This experience—an increase in options making it even more difficult to choose between them all—is very common to many other products and services, and leadership development programs are no exception.
Trustworthiness is the most essential quality of extraordinary leaders. Not many of us can think of a leader that we admire, respect, and would be willing to follow if we knew they couldn't be trusted. Unfortunately, every day we see more evidence of behaviors all around us that erode trust, and it seems no one is immune as we hear stories that involve politicians, teachers, policemen, religious leaders, coaches, corporate executives, husbands, wives, and so on. The root of all of this breach of trust can be traced back to someone’s lack of personal integrity. That is, when someone gives their word to behave a certain way, according to certain values and principles, and acts in a manner that is completely incongruent with what they gave their word to.