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  • Susan Hayer

What It Means To Be A Transformation Leader, Part 1

image of young woman interviewing a middle aged man in an office setting.

Recently I had the privilege of learning from a successful Transformation Leader (who wished to remain anonymous) who has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills in driving significant change within organizations. We discussed their perspective on being a transformation leader and delved into their approach to leading transformation initiatives, handling resistance to change, fostering innovation, inspiring and motivating teams, and managing setbacks. Their insights and experiences provide invaluable lessons for aspiring transformation leaders and organizations embarking on transformative journeys.


Susan: I'm excited to have the opportunity to learn from your success as a Transformation Leader. Can you share your perspective on what it means to be a Transformation Leader?

Transformation Leader: Absolutely! My primary goal is to guide the organization toward meaningful and impactful change. That sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? But this requires that you have a strong vision, excellent communication skills, and can inspire and motivate others to be part of the transformation, not watching from the sideline. It's all about working collaboratively with various teams, identifying the right areas for improvement, and implementing the right solutions that lead to success. And I believe that fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptation is crucial for any organization to thrive in today's fast-paced world.

Susan: That's impressive. Could you walk me through your approach to leading transformation initiatives?

Transformation Leader: Sure. So, when I lead transformation initiatives, I start by assessing the organization's current situation and then identifying areas that need improvement. Once that’s done, I will work with stakeholders to envision our desired future state. Once we have that vision, we develop a strategic roadmap outlining the steps we need to take to reach our goals.

I’ve learned firsthand that throughout the entire process, communication is key. I work to keep everyone aware of progress or delays, talk about any concerns, and celebrate milestones along the way. Again, by keeping lines of communication open, going both ways, it’s easier to get everyone, ok almost everyone, on board and working toward the same objective, making the transformation a success.

Susan: Perfect! you just alluded to my next question which is, how do you handle resistance to change and manage the overall change process?

Transformation Leader: That's a great question. When it comes to handling resistance to change, I understand that it's a natural part of the process. To get in front of it, I really focus on fostering a culture of transparency and inclusivity in the organization. I need to engage stakeholders at every level, and actively listen to their concerns and give them honest, although not always popular, constructive feedback. By involving them from the start of the transformation journey and highlighting the benefits they'll experience as a result, people are more likely to overcome most of their resistance and even become enthusiastic supporters of the change. That’s always fun to see! This kind of collaborative approach helps ease them into the transition and ensures a smoother overall change management process.

Susan: Innovation often plays a vital role in transformation. How do you foster innovation within your teams?

Transformation Leader: You're absolutely right, Susan. Innovation is a crucial element for driving successful transformation. To foster innovation within my teams, I try to establish an environment that encourages creativity and experimentation. And teams have to have the necessary resources and support to pursue new ideas and approaches fearlessly. It has to be a safe space where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and perspectives. Sometimes those differing perspectives can be the spark that ignites innovation.

When we value everyone’s unique contributions and are open-minded, we are far more likely to generate innovative solutions. Those solutions then drive the organization forward and closer to achieving our transformation goals. I’ve seen it happen like this more than once and it’s awesome.

Susan: Inspiring and motivating teams during a transformation can be challenging. How do you tackle this?

Transformation Leader: I believe in leading by example and connecting individuals to a shared purpose. I communicate our vision with enthusiasm and emphasize the positive impact the transformation will have on the organization and individuals. Empowering my teams is also crucial. I’ll offer them guidance and support and give them the autonomy they need to excel in their roles.

When teams and individuals feel empowered, they will take ownership of their contributions. And, of course, recognizing and celebrating their achievements is essential. Even if we celebrate in small ways, it helps keep everybody motivated. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and shows them that their hard work is truly making a difference.

Susan: Transformation journeys often face setbacks. How do you handle setbacks and ensure progress?

Transformation Leader: That's an excellent point. During any transformation, setbacks are inevitable, and resilience is key to overcoming them. It’s a mindset, really. When we encounter setbacks, I will emphasize the importance of focusing on our ultimate goal, or our "north star," and encourage the teams to keep that perspective. We will take a moment to step back, reassess the situation, and pinpoint opportunities for improvement.

Going back to the start of our conversation, keeping a culture of continuous learning helps adapt our strategies based on our experiences. We always learn something from a setback that we can use or be aware of in the future.

We also have to be sure we’re making progress by regularly evaluating and measuring our performance. Regularly evaluating and measuring performance pushes us forward and helps us stay on track towards achieving those transformation objectives.

Susan: Thank you for sharing your insights. I’m feeling very motivated right now! One final question: How do you ensure your growth as a transformational leader?

Transformation Leader: How do I ensure my growth as a transformational leader? I’m constantly expanding and stretching myself to stay ahead and be an effective leader. I do my best to stay on top of industry trends, new and emerging technologies, and best practices. So, I read a lot. I read articles and books on leadership, attend and participate in webinars, and I follow several thought leaders.

I also look for personal and professional development opportunities, like attending leadership conferences, networking with other leaders, and I actively mentor up and coming leaders. Being dedicated to learning brings fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to my role, so I can tackle new challenges and successfully guide my organization through future transformations.

Susan: Thank you for your valuable insights and experiences as a transformational leader. Your approach and success are truly inspiring.

Transformation Leader: My pleasure! Thank you for the opportunity to share my journey. I hope my experience adds to your understanding of transformational leadership.

Susan: I want to thank our esteemed guest for sharing their wisdom and experiences as a transformation leader. Their strategic vision and ability to inspire and guide others through change have been enlightening. I hope this discussion will inspire and empower others to embrace transformational leadership, ultimately driving meaningful change and achieving success in their respective endeavors.


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