Transformational Leadership: the foundation of a future-proof organization

Transformational Leadership is definitely able to be learned!

December 2019

I believe inspiration is what truly distinguishes a transformational leader from the rest. The ability to inspire other members of the organization towards a collective goal requires, in my opinion, 3 key characteristics:

  1. The company has to have a mission, a “why” and it has to resonate with everyone in the organization
  2. The company has to aim to “do good”. To leave the world a better place after the job is done. This key characteristic is intimately linked to the first one.
  3. Employee satisfaction has to be a core tenant of daily business operations

Having these 3 key characteristics employed in an organization allows a transformational leader to produce a company culture which inspires its employees to, not only excel in everyday tasks, but also to empower them and make them feel proud of the work they do. By successfully creating a culture such as this, innovation becomes an inevitable by-product.

Transformational leadership is definitely able to be learned!

We are all born with intrinsic capabilities to connect, inspire and empathize with others. I do not agree with those who say that leadership traits are a unique talent of a select few. Whilst there are certainly people with a bigger predisposition to become leaders by their own born talents, to become a de facto transformational leader requires, above all else, a deep knowledge of the human experience and humility to know that one does not have all the answers and needs to find them collectively with his/her peers.

At the same time, Learning & Development (L&D) stopped being a “nice-to-have” to become a “must have” in any company in the XXI century, especially in a tech firm such as Lisbon Nearshore. Research suggests that lifelong learning is also a necessity for active and engaged employees and it plays an important role both on employee satisfaction, as well as on the ability of an organization to adapt to change and to innovate. As such, a truly transformational leadership has to offer an extensive development programme that couples online, offline and out-of-office (e.g. conferences, workshops) training for its employees. These initiatives come from a leadership style that is focused on staying on top of market dynamics.

Transformational leaders view L&D as an integral part of the business. In a time where all economic sectors are aiming to achieve efficiencies and growth with digital transformation programmes, it is crucial to have an educated workforce on top of the recent technology trends and with an eye to potential to identify innovative solutions to everyday problems.

But what are the biggest challenges in driving organizational transformation, what are some of the potential solutions and how can leaders and talent development role players contribute?

Humans are inherently averse to change so the biggest challenge I see in driving organizational transformation is to inspire the need for change within the organization itself. In order to successfully effect change, I always follow a few general guidelines such as:

  • Collaboration is key. Teams should be informed and involved in change, to a point where their contribution is essential to create a change dynamic that is in accordance with the culture and values of the organization.
  • Good communication is essential. To be able to inspire others, it is necessary to have a good grip of where the organization wants to go, and the vision to execute; however, things can get murky if meaningful dialogue between employees is not incentivized.
  • Higher goals. Organizational transformation cannot be driven from pure cost-saving needs. The organization has to set a mission from itself in which the most important aspect is its long-term sustainability and betterment.

To be able to closely follow these general guidelines, it is necessary to have active and engaged employees. Nowadays, this can only stem from an organization truly committed to develop its talent, which besides an all-encompassing talent development programme, needs to have its leaders focused on overcoming adversity by looking at in-house teams as organic systems needing to be constantly stimulated.

by Tiago Catarino, CEO of Lisbon Nearshore