Transformative Leadership is the capacity to impact and engage others in an important work that causes forward movement with positive effect. There are three skills that enable strong transformative leadership. Transformative leaders must be able to Attend, Imagine, and Move. We don’t normally think of these three activities as leadership skills. I think it is vital that we do. Our organizations today react to the pace and complexity of our world with a “Ready, FIRE, Aim” mentality. This tendency is killing our ability to be competitive and to answer our important questions with creative and bold solutions. We need to learn how to aim BEFORE we fire. The three skills of transformative leadership enable us to break the “Ready, Fire, Aim” tendency that has us stuck.
The first skill of transformative leadership is something we’ve been told all our lives by our parents and teachers – Pay Attention! It is amazing how frequently many of us stop paying attention to what is going on around us and in us. To “Attend” requires us to do two things. First, we must attend – that is, we must be present. We have to engage others in the here and now of the field of experience. Second, we must be observant of what is occurring in the field of our experience. Being present and observant enables us to take the time to fully assess and analyze our current situation before jumping to action. If our tendency is to download and race quickly from here to there, then developing this skill may be a first step toward becoming more reflective, less impulsive, and more aligned with both our individual purpose and organizational expectations.
The second skill of transformative leadership is “Imagine.” Only when we intentionally engage our imaginations can we be creative and be innovative. Strategic thinking and “problem-solving” are reliant on our ability to be creative and innovative in our approach to leadership and business. Without developing the skill of “Imagining,” we are making decisions based solely on the past – past information, past decisions, past experiences; we are downloading old solutions on new challenges and settling for the obvious solution rather than imagining the optimal solution. When we imagine, we invite creativity and innovation as we consider the advantages and disadvantages of each course of action open to us before jumping into action. Then, the possibilities multiply and options that we’ve never considered or experienced before emerge and present multiple paths into the best possible future.
The third skill, “Move,” involves laying out a strategy and making plans to whatever level of granularity is desired and necessary. The ability to be strategic and be purposeful is demonstrated through this third skill of transformative leadership. The skill of moving – of being strategic and purposeful – enables us to put all the pieces together. When we move it is either in the right direction or not. The first two skills of transformative leadership greatly increase the likelihood that the movement is in the right direction.
The skills of transformative leadership follow upon one another like steps on a path. When we are attending well, we can better engage our imaginations and the collective wisdom of our teams in order to devise the optimal solutions that will enable us to move closer to realizing our strategic vision. As we develop the skills of transformative leadership and follow the three steps on their pathway, we increase the likelihood that we will “A.I.M.” before we fire and lead positive transformation.