Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

The Impact Of Leaders On Personal Transformation

Leadership  and personal transformation

The following is a guest piece by Bill Treasurer.

A lot has been written about Transformational Leadership. The term was coined by James McGregor Burns, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian. In his book “Leadership” he talks about the transformational impact that occurs on performance and morale when a leader connects a follower’s sense of identity to the collective identity of the organization.

Leadership practitioners spend a lot of time theorizing about transformational change writ large. But transforming an entire organization will never be an experience that most leaders are tasked with. Most leaders aren’t CEOs. They are heads of teams, departments, and divisions. More broadly, they are anyone who influences others toward the achievement of goals.

So rather than spending too much time musing about transformational change at scale, it makes more sense to focus on helping inspire transformational change at a more personal level.

Think about leaders you’ve worked for. They have likely been people who gave you feedback at a critical moment in time that ended up become a better self, not just a better professional. They probably believed in your potential before you believed in it yourself. And they likely gave you opportunities to prove yourself to yourself.

In the process, they helped close the gap between who we were and who we were capable of becoming. Rather than transform the entire organization, they likely focused intensely on transforming you.

One of the ways that a good leader can help bring about personal transformation is by being a Velvet Hammer. A leader needs to be able to deliver hard-hitting messages that bring about change, but that do so without inflicting harm. The leader has to be simultaneously caring and tough.

For example, consider the story of a middle manager whose boss, one of the most respected people in the company, gave him some tough feedback that most people wouldn’t have the courage to give. During the middle manager’s performance review, after talking about all of the things that he was doing well, his boss said, “There is one more thing that I have to tell you before you go. There’s something that I’m just starting to notice, and I’m concerned that others will start to notice too. It can become a real drag on your career unless you deal with it. You’re becoming a brown noser.”

Ten years after receiving the hard-to-hear feedback, the middle manager considers it the single most important conversation he had in his entire career. Essentially because his boss gave him permission to care less about what others thought about him.

His boss said, “You don’t have to laugh at my jokes harder than they are funny. That’s not only dishonest; it’s manipulative. If you just agree with everything I say you’ll be of no real value to me. You’re a smart guy with a strong imagination. Rely on your own creativity and ideas to get ahead, not on kissing up to people like me.”

The well-timed words of a caring leader can impact a person for the duration of his or her life. That makes influencing personal transformation a profound responsibility of leadership. Here are some actions you can take to inspire personal transformation in the people you lead:

1. Transform yourself first
There is no more powerful way to inspire others to change than to change yourself first. You have to be the first one up and off the high dive you’re asking others to leap from. Ask yourself: where am I playing it too safe, and what is that safety costing me? Then leap from your platform of safety into the cold water of change.

2. Answer the holy question
Meet with each person you lead and have them think through there answer to this question: What do you want? Transformation will take less effort if it’s aligned with their personal goals and aspirations.

3. Transform with opportunity
Benjamin Disraeli was right, “Opportunity is more powerful even than conquerors and prophets.” People will move mountains for you if in exchange for doing so they get to grow and develop. Identify developmental opportunities that would close “who they are” and “who they can be” gap.

4. Nudge into discomfort
Ginny Rometty, the CEO of IBM, is right when she says, “Growth and comfort don’t coexist.” People grow and develop in a zone of discomfort, not comfort. Task people with stretch assignments that cause them to grow, and make them a tad uncomfortable.

The leader’s job in inspiring personal transformation in others is critically important. The more people you’re able to influence in a positive way, the more your influence will grow in the organization.

Personal transformation always proceeds organizational transformation. So if you want to be a transformational leader, focus on bringing about positive transformation in the lives and careers of the people you influence.

Bill Treasurer is the Chief Encouragement Officer of Giant Leap Consulting. His latest book is “Leaders Open Doors”, and focuses on how leaders create growth through opportunity. Bill is also the author of “Courage Goes to Work”, an international bestselling book that introduces the concept of courage-building. Bill has led courage-building workshops for NASA, Accenture, CNN, Hugo Boss, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

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  1. On August 6th, 2013 at 2:12 PM Conor Neill said:

    Great post! 😉

  2. On August 8th, 2013 at 3:08 AM sparktheaction said:

    Great post –
    Kudos to Tanveer & Bill


  3. On August 8th, 2013 at 2:51 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Carl; glad you enjoyed it.

  4. On August 12th, 2013 at 1:08 PM Jim Matorin said:

    Powerful last line, but unfortunately I do not know if people are taking timeout to really evalutate their sphere of influence. Maybe a byproduct of C'est Moi times.

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