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Key Challenges And Pitfalls Of Transformational Leadership

Dec 26, 2007
Perhaps two of the most challenging areas a Transformational Leader will come across, aside from personal skill development and the ongoing challenges that a leadership role will inevitably bring, will be building trust, and managing power.

The reason why these two areas are key, is because if ignored, they have a large influence on the success rate of a leader. Trust and power are linked directly to the individual leader themselves, and so it can be directly addressed, as the individual has control over themselves. With some feedback, guidance and perhaps coaching, there is a good chance that they will be able to get back on track. Let's look at each area in a piece in more depth.

Trust is an absolutely crucial area to be aware of when being an effective leader. Trust lubricates communication, action, relationships, agreement and many other important areas. It takes a long time to establish and retain trust, and just a few moments to destroy many years of invested energy, time and money. Although it is possible to regain someone's trust, it can take a long time, and even then you may never regain the full measure of what you previously had. Now that is not to say that it is not achievable, just that it can be a difficult area to work in, unless you have skills in that area.

If you are a manager, often people will do what you say because you are the boss, and people are in a transactional leadership type of relationship. If they don't do what you say, they could face negative consequences. But if you are in a transformational leadership position, people follow you because they choose to, not because they have to. At any point a follower can choose to stop calling you their leader, and then you no longer have authority over them, unless of course you happen to be their manager. Just because people are doing what you tell them to do, does not mean that they trust you, or that they see you as their leader.

This brings us to the next area -- power. Someone once described power as the ability to act or to get something done. We all have personal power, mainly through our own choices and actions. The extent of the force of our power depends on several factors, such as our presence or gravitas, our focus and discipline, and also the environment that we are in. Power can be linked to authority, in that it is often the authority that you have, that gives you the power create and achieve certain results. There are two main forms of authority -- positional and personal.

Positional authority comes from a role that the person is in. An example could be a manager in a company, who acts on behalf of the company, and is given authority to make certain decisions. It is with this power that the manager can go ahead and take action to achieve the outcomes of the company. In a sense the power is borrowed from the organization, and channeled through the manager. Exactly how the power is directed is at the managers' discretion, leaving the door open to a certain amount of manipulation and possibly corruption.

As a leader, the power comes from the people that you lead, and from personal authority. If you have no people to lead, then you have no power to use in terms of getting the objectives met. Leading is about peoples trust, and when they do, they will act for you, and so are the power of the leader. When you are in a position where your followers give you power to act through them, you are in a place which can easily be misused. The term pseudo-transformational leader was developed to describe a transformational leader who uses this power in an unethical manner for outcomes aimed at personal gain, rather than the transformation, empowerment and betterment of the whole.

Successful transformational leaders are excellent at building trust and handling power in a way that serves all. Transformational leadership can unlock extraordinary potential in people, and so harness enormous power to serve the aims of the group, as in an organization, but not at the cost of the world around them.
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