“The only thing constant is change.”
Philosophers since ancient times recognized the certainty of change. Fast-forward to the 21st century, and this concept is evident in everything. With the advent of technology, the rate of change is exponentially faster, and it demands a considerable amount of agility for us not only to survive but also to thrive.
Our business landscape has witnessed a tremendous amount of change affecting the way we do business. This change has had an impact on the behavior and culture of the society in which these businesses operate. We have witnessed the rise and fall of businesses across all industries due to change. The shorter business life-cycles and the fast-changing consumer behavior nowadays make or break businesses regardless of size.
Our company recognizes the importance of preparing, accepting and adopting change, understanding that we now operate in a very different landscape. Just recently, our senior leaders from various parts of the world visited our operational center here in Manila to launch a big transformation initiative over the coming months and years. A series of talks, training sessions, and town hall meetings were held to cascade the ideas and concepts of the program and to encourage participation and support from all the members of the corporation. I was able to join a town hall meeting with our business unit global head and it was very informative and engaging as we learned the importance of our role, participation, and support for the initiative. Our leaders were enthusiastic during the talk and I noticed their emphasis on “transformational leadership” to make this program successful. I was intrigued by the term and I decided to further learn about it.
In 1978, leadership guru, James McGregor Burns expounded on the concept of “transformational leadership” in his book entitled Leadership. He defined the concept as a process where “leaders and their followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation.” Bernard M. Bass in his 2003 article stated that transformational leadership is a leadership framework that recommends leaders to “encourage their followers to achieve extraordinary results.” The concept is very much different from the “transactional leadership” style in which the leader only promotes compliance with current organizational goals through punishment and rewards, and is just concerned with the normal and uninterrupted flow of business processes.
Sarah White a senior writer for CIO.com, wrote that transformational leaders support, inspire and motivate the members of the organization to challenge the status quo, to bring change, new ideas, and innovation that will help build and shape the future success of the company. Further, it’s a management style that gives employees more room to be creative, to find solutions to new problems and to prepare for the future — it is indeed a useful framework for motivating innovation. A framework that we need in our age of rapid change and transformation.
Examining the core definition and concepts of “transformational leadership,” I now understand why our transformation initiative needs to be successful. While we could invest heavily in technology, improve operations, set up extravagant marketing plans, and present well prepared financial plans, at the end of the day, the success of all of these will depend on our people.
Transformational leadership is a testament to the organization’s commitment to its people. I am proud to be part of an organization whose leaders do not take its people for granted. These transformational leaders recognize that people are part of the strategic direction of the company, that more than anything else, people play a huge and important part in the fruition of all of its plans and initiatives.
Looking beyond profitability, our priority is to give utmost importance to the dignity and values of people — skills that characterize transformational leaders, the kind of leaders that we all need in our uncertain and ever-changing world.
This essay was written as part of the requirement in his Strategic Human Resource Management class.
Jan Paolo Manalo Lipat is an MBA student at De La Salle University’s Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business.