Transformational Leadership is the buzzword in business today.
The popularity of the term underscores a worldwide yearning for reform.
There is a visionary ring to it. It conveys passionate commitment. It inspires hope because it promises a purposeful way forward to a positive mind-changing and life-changing future.
Maybe that’s why management gurus love to use it – because it offers plenty of stirring meanings for them to talk about.
As I see it, stripped of all the hype, Transformational Leadership means strong and focused leadership that is outcome-driven, that seeks to produce results.
To succeed, a Transformational Leader would need to acquire certain skills.
He must have the ability to mobilise and motivate people.
He must be inclusive in his thinking and approach to enable him to get the right talents on board the team.
He must be able to articulate his vision and mission well; to make complex or even radical concepts easy to understand.
He must be able to convince people to embrace his ideas and follow his lead.
Empowering, inspiring, visionary, team builder and team player, communicator par excellence – a Transformational Leader is all of these.
In the world of business, however, personal charisma is not enough to achieve great success.
Here you must know how to transform the whole company to fight and overcome competition from around the world.
Here you must be able to transform your products and services so that they will consistently be wanted and accepted locally and globally.
You have to be able to defend your market, expand your market, open new markets.
Transformational Leadership, in the business environment, is thus more about productive, well-directed leadership, and less about charismatic leadership.
Transformation in a company can only happen if the leader succeeds in building a cohesive team that shares a common objective.
When their minds and vision merge, the way they do things will change. The results they produce will change, and that is transformation.
When that takes place, the leadership style will change.
The Transformational Leader will no longer be managing his team. He will then be leading his team.
Simply put, Transformation Leadership is an inclusive kind of leadership whereas the old-fashioned way stresses efficiency in implementation managed by a leader.
It must never just be about increasing sales or efficiency. That is a given in any company in order to survive and prosper.
Beyond that, transformation must mean changing the attitude of the people who work in the company and the perspective of the people who buy from the company.
It must mean changing the whole direction of the company.
It must mean changing the way the company sees its place in the community besides its position in the market.
There should be a spiritual element involved in transformation – giving prominence to corporate responsibility, reaching out, gaining respect and fostering goodwill.
These are all part and parcel of achieving the kind of standing that will enable a company to deepen its relationship with its market.
Transformational leaders are obviously people who think out of the box; who are prepared to challenge the norm and rearrange the rules if the rules have become obstacles.
They are always thinking about changing for the better; always seeking better and more practical solutions and options.
It is a state of mind. Transformational leaders have the right mindset that wants to move forward.
If we keep doing the same thing over long periods of time, we will, as business people, as a country, be out of step, out of sync, and then out of touch with what’s happening around us.
Some of us are still entrenched in controls and systems that have become stumbling blocks, and still do not understand the speed at which we must change just to remain in competition; never mind staying several steps ahead of the competition.
Some of us still ignore the fact that outside our borders, other developing economies are rushing to close the gap with the most advanced economies.
Other new economies are making quantum leaps that are astonishing in their inventiveness and threatening in their competitiveness.
The economic divide between countries that are transforming and countries that are not is widening.
Once upon a time, people said Singapore is devoid of natural resources; that its government is too conservative. Yet it has developed into one of the most advanced and wealthy economies in the world.
Bali is another resource-poor island that stands out as the product of Transformational Leadership.
It does not have the best beaches in the world or the most comfortable hotels. Yet it consistently gets voted as one of the best holiday islands by basing its marketing strategy on the theme of its rich art and cultural heritage.
Malaysia has many more natural resources than Singapore and Bali. We just don’t have enough transformational leaders to turn the resources into wealth generating assets.
We must build the ecosystem that produces many more transformational leaders at all levels, and mobilising their talents and skills to benefit our country.
In the rapidly transforming world environment, driven by unprecedented economic and political changes, I can see no other option for Malaysia if we are to meet the advancing competition successfully.
Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Paduka Dr Lim Kok Wing, the Founder and President of Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, does not fit into any ordinary mould that would describe most entrepreneurs.
His journey has been closely linked with the economic and social development of Malaysia.
The United Nations’ Economics and Social Department estimates that US$500 billion to US$600 billion is required annually by developing countries to fight climate change.
— The Star, September 2009
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