Transformational Leadership – The Framework*

October 20th

There is growing interest in how to lead transformational change.   Many people – from those in positions of formal authority to non-traditional players who are being given access to key decision-making and granted a seat at the table by emerging technologies – are increasingly interested in knowing how successful transformation works.

In part, this is because organizations in both the public and private sectors are being confronted by imperatives to change that have been driven by technology, financial crises, resource constraints and new conditions that are forcing them to address issues such as,

  • How do we change the services we deliver to our customers?
  • How should we change the business model of our organization? and
  • How do we change while retaining our essential character?

My work with leaders who are facing these questions reveals that there are seven basic elements that are present in every successful transformation – elements that are illustrated by fundamental questions that must be answered:

  • Why change?
  • Who is going to be involved in planning, executing and sustaining the transformation?
  • When to launch?
  • Where is the change going to lead?
  • How should the journey be structured to achieve creative balance?
  • …To be imlementated dynamically? and
  • …To sustain the gain?

Addressing these seven questions will be aided by building your own playbook and using it to create a gameplan that fits your context . Your playbook needs to address:

The two preliminaries:

  • Why change?
  • Who leads?  and

The five elements of transformation:

  • Timing
  • Innovation
  • Strategy
  • Implementation, and
  • Sustainability

This is the framework.  Effective transformation strategy will address each of these classic themes.

What makes this interesting today is that we have reached one of the great inflection points in history when new voices and new players have been empowered by technology change and are making the dynamics of transformation come alive.  Looking at the framework, some old hands will be tempted to say that they have seen it before.  After all, the essential elements of transformation have a timeless quality.  But historically, future directions were defined top down.  Since Ancient Greece, strategy has been the work of generals.  This this is in the process of changing.

If the moral of this story were “adapt to technology” there would be little news here.  This has been a common theme for nearly 20 years since the Internet became a mainstream communications channel.  But today, interactive technology and transparent enterprise are writing new rules for future leaders forcing traditional leadership to adjust to the force of the new players.  The dynamics of organizations in every sector of the economy are being changed.

Some will need to react and democratize their enterprise as quickly as possible; others have more time to choose their future path.  But everyone needs to understand the implications of the forces that are democratizing transformation.

 

* Preparing to teach seven classes on Transformational Leadership at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, it became valuable to create a brief summary of the framework for the discussion.  Some of the discussion here has appeared in different forms in this blog and in the Working Papers on this Transformation Strategy site. Much of it is new.

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