Transformational Leadership

The way that you lead your team has a big impact on the team. Research by Daniel Goleman published in Harvard Business Review showed that leadership style of senior staff is responsible for 30% of the company’s bottom line profitability.

You probably have a leadership style that comes naturally to you, but it can be really helpful to be able to flex your leadership style to meet the needs of the situation you are facing. The best leaders are able to adapt their approach in order to help their team perform effectively.

I’d like to share with you an increasingly popular leadership style called Transformational Leadership.

Transformational Leadership

Initially described by James McGregor Burns as a process “where leaders and their followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation” this concept was then further developed by Bernard M Bass in his book “Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations”.

A transformational leader…

  • Is a model of integrity and fairness
  • Sets clear goals
  • Has high expectations
  • Encourages others
  • Provides support and recognition
  • Stirs the emotions of people
  • Gets people to look beyond their self-interest
  • Inspires people to reach for the improbable

The way that transformational leaders do this is to create an inspiring vision of the future, motivate people to take ownership of and deliver the vision, make that vision happen and build strong and trust-based relationships. You will find lots of information and ideas to help you do that in the other chapters of this book.

Path-Goal Theory

Transformational leadership works well as a whole team approach but there will be times when you are line-managing people with diverse experience who will need different things from you as a line manager. Highly experienced team members and inexperienced team members will require very different approaches, as will high performing individuals and poor performing individuals. Path-Goal theory articulates which management approaches to use in those situations.

The theory assumes that the role of a manager is to help their direct reports to identify goals which align with organisational goals, help them to achieve those goals and help tackle any obstacles to achieving those goals. These are the 4 approaches you can take…

  • Directive & clarifying – you are very clear about what is expected of the individual and how you want them to perform their tasks. It is best used when a task or project is inherently ambiguous or when the individual is inexperienced or performing poorly.
  • Achievement-orientated – you set challenging goals, expect the individual to perform at their highest level and have confidence in them to achieve those goals. This approach is best used with experienced senior staff.
  • Participative – you collaborate and consult on decisions so that the individual has genuine input. This approach is best used with senior staff on complex projects.
  • Supportive – this is aimed at supporting the individual and being sensitive to their needs and is best used when tasks are stressful.

Six Emotional Leadership Styles

In their book “Primal Leadership” Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee outlined 6 leadership styles and their emotional impact on teams. You’ll see that you can draw on whichever style you need in order to deal with the situation you face. I’ve summarised them here but I recommend reading the book.

  • The Visionary leader – sets out the vision and motivates people to achieve it. They are empathetic and explain how and why people’s efforts contribute to the vision. This approach brings people together and it works well when a new direction is needed and has a positive emotional impact in the team.
  • The Coaching leader – listens, helps people identify their strengths and weaknesses, encourages and delegates. This approach connects what an individuals wants with the goals of the organisation. It has a positive emotional impact on the team and is useful for helping competent and motivated people to improve performance by building long-term capabilities.
  • The Affiliative leader – puts people first and creates an emotional bond between them and the organisation. They promote harmony, boost morale and resolve conflicts. The team feel more connected to each other so it is a good style to use when there has been a breakdown of trust or to motivate people in stressful times. It should not be used exclusively though as it can be hard to use it to get high performance or set direction.
  • The Democratic leader – builds consensus through participation and asks people what they think. The team feel valued and commit by participating. It can be useful when you need your team to take ownership of a decision or project or when your team know more than you do (I found this really useful when I ran a recruitment company of experienced recruiters when I was new to the sector). This approach doesn’t work well in times of crisis, if a quick decision is needed or if the team feel they don’t know enough.
  • The Pacesetting leader – expects and models excellence with a strong drive to achieve. Leads by example but can lack empathy. This can work well when a team is motivated and experienced and the leader needs quick results. Used in other situations it can be overwhelming and demotivating for team members.
  • The Coercive leader – demands immediate compliance “do as I tell you”. Good in a crisis or as a last resort with a poor performing team member but should otherwise be avoided because it alienates people and create an unhappy team.

Communicating with your team

I have often heard people say that they have no idea what their Director or CEO were doing with their time, with the implication being that the people at the top don’t work as hard as everyone else. It is important that your team understands your role and the value you add to the organisation and the best way to ensure that is to communicate with them. I ask my teams to create a monthly report on their activities, plans and achievements and I also contribute a section myself (as well as editing it). That allows me to tell them about the meetings I’ve been to, the influencing I’ve been doing and my main projects and priorities. I also sit with the team so that they see me working hard. I’m confident that those two communication tools mean no one who has worked in my teams has ever questioned what I’m doing with my time.

Have regular 1:1s with your team members, even if you sit next to them and they are highly experienced. It shows that they are a priority to you (so don’t frequently cancel or move them), it gives them a place where they can raise any issues and it will be invaluable if they later start performing poorly.

“It isn’t all my way or the highway. It isn’t all about the director’s ego, it is about positive motivation. It’s give praise and credit, where credit is due, it’s passing it down. Building that sense of team and talking the “I” out of it for want of a better expression. Succession planning is key and keeping people and building their skills and experience, I think you hold your workforce for longer.

 But it’s also taking the time to inspire and lead your team with your aspirations and your vision for the team. And also I think when you are in a more senior role it’s important not to forget that you are also part of that team. I think it is a combination of how you set the culture of the team and that mutual respect, people having a voice, being able to listen. It’s bringing them with you on the journey.”

Jools Tait, Director of Development on her management style at BEN

“Personally I am an open book emotionally. I give of myself, am very loyal to my people and trust massively. I have in the last 25 years rarely been disappointed. I think I only do one thing really well and that is find great people to work with. Makes work great and rarely a chore.”

Mark Astarita, Director of Fundraising on his management style at British Red Cross

Want more practical advice like this?  My book “Leading Successful Fundraising Teams” is now available on Amazon.

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