Transformative Leadership


I had the singular opportunity to speak to the student government officers of different public secondary schools in the Division of Dumaguete City last Wednesday. I spoke about the power of transformative leadership and how essential it is to effect valuable and positive change no matter how old or young we are, how big or small our spheres of influence is. The world needs global citizens who are ready and willing to build a better future for generations to come.

The task seems to be inundating in terms of scope and complexity. But, as we discussed in the said forum with the student leaders, if we break down transformative leadership in smaller, more practical pieces, we get to realize that being a leader is not limited to position, power, or property. It is a way of BEING and when we understand that, we can all lead from wherever we are.

The first step to embodying the ideals of transformative leadership is the basic understanding of two things: first, what transformative means; and second, the major assumption why people decide to become leaders.

Let us begin with the first. Transformative finds its etymology in its parts. Trans means change. Form could mean shape or structure. If we preface leadership with the word transformative, we are essentially saying that we use leadership as a vehicle for change. Now to the second point. The major assumption why people decide to become leaders is the belief that we can make a difference. We take on a leadership role knowing that we can use such a position to cater to the needs of our community, to improve systems, to be an agent for progress.

What we can see from these two points is that CHANGE is transformative leadership’s buzzword. As leaders, we believe we can make a difference so we take actual steps to do so. This could be anything from initiating an inter-faith dialogue among young people to implementing a zerowaste management program in school. Activities like these bring about change with leaders flanking all sides, leading the charge.

But change has two faces: it can be positive or negative; creative or destructive. This is why we have to be constantly aware of the quality of change that we would like to see. We discussed five steps that can more or less manage the kind of change we would like to happen.

First, inspire a shared vision. I read somewhere that the difference between a vision and a hallucination is the number of people who see it. While funny, the statement does bear a grain of truth. For it to be shared, it should mean something to the people that we work with. As Thomas Nelson Publishers CEO Michael Hyatt said, “Vision is the lifeblood of any organization. It is what keeps it moving forward. It provides meaning to the dayto- day challenges and setbacks that make up the rumble and tumble of real life.”

Second, be prepared to face challenges. With change comes opposition in whatever shape or form. We have to be ready to face them and have the grit, fortitude, and patience to overcome them.

Third, enable others to act. Collaboration builds relationships and trust. There is definitely more power in WE rather than I. As history will show us time and again, dictatorial regimes NEVER end well.

Fourth, model the way. Transformative leaders know that if they want to gain commitment and achieve high standards, they must be models of the behavior they expect of others.

Finally, encourage the heart. Change must be something larger than oneself. If we collectively pine for a lofty goal, our passion and commitment will fuel us to achieve it.

The global community yearns for more transformative leaders willing to step up to the plate. Question is: Are we ready to say yes?