Daily Archives: June 7, 2021

Do you want to be a Transformational Leader?

Do you want to be a Transformational Leader?

Recently, Vistage Worldwide featured a story about a CEO with whom I have the pleasure of working.

See https://perspectives.vistage.com/spring-2021/cover/  Vistage is launching its own podcast program and asked us to participate. It should be available this month on iTunes. You can hear it here: https://app.frame.io/presentations/dacd6730-18f4-4479-8870-8ebdb4d221eb.

As you know, leadership is the art of mobilizing a group of people to act toward a common goal. The ultimate standard for leadership, as former general and president Dwight D. Eisenhower explained is the art of getting someone to do what you want done because he /she wants to do it.

In today’s fast paced world, most leaders focus on fixing the problems their companies now experience and are likely to confront tomorrow. When the pandemic began, leaders reacted immediately to meet the needs of their companies, employees and customers. As the pandemic winds down and we begin the next phase of forming a “new normal” (which will not be returning to the old one!), leaders are focused on tomorrow.  Similarly, as automation, AI and robotics eliminate or change people’s jobs filled with routinized work, leaders are focused on “upskilling”- helping employees to acquire new skills for a job that they to which they can be transferred. Leaders’ focus on today and tomorrow is the result of the “Tyranny of Now”.

Transformational leaders have a longer-term growth mindset with a wider-angled lens.  They focus on the “Day After Tomorrow”; they adhere to Stephen R .Covey’s second habit: “begin with the end in mind”. They engage with the entire ecosystem – their employees, customers, communities served, etc. and use their wider-angled lens to test alternatives scenarios for what might happen. Only by aligning sets of solutions for the longer-term can they achieve the transformative vision that drives them.

We see this all around us. In the earliest days of mankind, we learned to mobilize people to fetch water and bring it to the site to douse the flames. Transformational leaders took a longer-term, wider-angled, ecosystem approach to save more lives and spare more property through fire prevention codes and use of fire-retardant products.

Think about the “side-effects” of industrial processes that create “pollutants” which are reducing the habitability of our planet for our children and future generations. As Bill Gates recently noted, we’ve focused on address the “low-hanging fruit” solutions, such as recycling, reducing gas consumption with electric vehicles, etc. In his book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, he shares more difficult, long-term approaches that can have greater actual impact.

We see this in the companies led by transformative leaders. Henry Ford believed we could speed up horse-and-buggy-type transportation. Instead of raising faster horses or building faster carriages, he created an assembly line system to manufacture the “horseless carriage”. Then he realized he needed to change its availability to make it a financial success; so he increased the workers’ pay so they could afford to buy cars and serve as “influencers” to popularize the new industry.

The CEO I mentioned at the beginning of this article is Ed Bosco, a Managing Partner of ME-Engineers, who developed a transformative company that, simultaneously, attracts high quality employees to work on long-term projects by clients who have exciting and engineering challenges. Imagine creating habitats not only for people in offices, schools and other buildings, but also iconic facilities, such as large sports stadiums around the world (e.g., major tennis, basketball, soccer facilities); imagine working on the science behind a zoo’s habitat for gorillas and another for butterflies; in addition, he focuses on the environment needed by one of the world’s largest space telescopes that needs to peer into space clearly, 24/7. With his expertise and reputation for being able to handle such “Extreme” projects, it’s not surprising that, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic , he was asked to join a global task force focused on opening up large venues. He knows that with this expertise  he can help people re-open safely their offices, restaurants and other establishments, etc. Moreover, he knows that it would truly engage his staff and excite them to take on other challenging projects, like addressing the impact of climate change.

Key to the success of his business is his understanding of the ecosystem in which he lives. He works with schools and scholarships that advance STEM training for students as early as high school.  By maintaining long-term relationships with them, they become referral sources for future top-notch employee candidates as well as employees.

Unlike other companies that focus on transactions with clients rather than long-term relationships, his employees don’t leave after a few years. They stay to work on the long-term, challenging and exciting projects presented by great clients. Moreover, since the company views itself as a “Continuous Improvement Learning Organization” (CILO) – facilitating the professional growth of employees – they stay to use their new skills and experiences in new and often elevated working positions.  In other words, the company, which uses a Team of Teams organizational structure to foster creativity, agility, and teamwork enables its employees and clients to mutually reinforce long-term, professional growth through long-term relationships taking on more challenging jobs.

In sum, there are many rewards to being a transformative leader and working with them. If you want to become one and/or improve at being one, let me know.  For instance, the transformational leaders with whom I work had the opportunity to learn from two experts at recent CEO Meetings. 

  • One is self-exploratory: “Your Extraordinary Why”. Who we are? What are we passionate about? What is it that we and our companies are uniquely gifted to accomplish?”    
  • The second is: “Action Dialogue: Piercing Conversation”. Since decision effectiveness dependent on information others provide to solve problems, how do we overcome their reluctance to speak candidly and directly about tough issues? The results can be information cover-up, distortion and misinformation. How do we facilitate honest, direct and authentic conversations?

Vistage AWorldwide, serves 23,000 CEOs in the US and 20 countries. If you want to learn about a local Board, email me (jerry.cahn@vistage.com) and I’ll make an introduction!

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