Idealized Influence: How to Become a Transformational Leader

We all know that every great team has an amazing leader, one who keeps their teammates on board for the long haul, focused, and driven to succeed. They don’t drag their teammates toward working on their organizational goals but motivate and inspire their team to own the project.

The truth is that ownership comes from inspiration, and inspiration is an inside job. As a leader, you can help facilitate inspiration within your organization but you can’t necessarily create it because long-term inspiration comes only from the heart and mind of the inspired.

So, the question we as leaders need to ask ourselves is how can we build ourselves up to become the type of transformational leader who is able to reinvigorate the entrepreneurial spirit in each of our teammates, the type of entrepreneurial motivation and drive associated with a goal that can’t be bought with money?

1) Have a double vision

The most well-connected, successful people understand that in order to bond with and motivate others, you must be able to show them that you truly understand their position, motivation, fears, emotions, and drivers before they will give you permission to help them move to a new way of thinking. It’s the key to admission into their world. Without it, you’re sunk. 

Transformational leadership is about constantly walking a mile in their teammates’ shoes, trying to see, feel, and experience their perspectives as a means to a deeper connection and, most importantly, trust. When you trust, you allow yourself to be motivated and inspired by that person. When you don’t feel that your teammates are making an effort to have that double vision—to see things from your perspective as well as their own—and it seems as if they only care about you to the extent that they need you to get across that finish line to achieve their personal goals, your synergy is doomed.

If we let other people see that we’re aware, that we understand, that we can put ourselves in their shoes for a moment, we could probably avoid ninety percent of our interpersonal struggles. It doesn’t take much. You just have to keep your ego out of the fray and remember that these are the people you are going to take to the finish line with you. Grace or grapple? It’s your choice.

2) Focus on coaching NOT criticism

If you are mentally pointing a finger at an employee when you discuss things that need to be changed (you need more training, you blew that sale, you were unprepared and so on), your teammate is going to instantly put up a wall and get defensive. 

But if you mentally extend a hand instead (here’s what I’m seeing, share your challenges with me, how can I help? what do you need from us to be successful?), then there is a much greater chance that your message will be received in good faith and that positive change will be made. It’s easy to criticize. It’s much harder and much more worthwhile to coach instead, to offer a towline that lets your teammates know you believe in them. Consciously think about extending a hand to your teammates when behaviors need to change instead of pointing a finger. You will be closer to your goal and be a more well-respected leader at the same time.

3) Accept help from your teammates

It’s often hard for those of us with a healthy ego to accept help from other people. We see that as a sign of weakness. But accepting help from your teammates is vital to the building of your team, so from now on I want you to think differently about accepting help. I want you to think about accepting help as giving a gift to the helper. When you accept help from someone else, it makes the other person feel worthy. It makes them feel important; it makes them feel liked. If it’s hard for you to accept help for help’s sake, try thinking of it as giving a gift to the helper.

For example, think of how great it makes you feel when you are able to open a door for someone who is struggling with a handful of groceries or battling with a set of crutches. It makes your heart expand a little, doesn’t it? You feel great about yourself. You feel connected to that person; you feel a positive vibe and a bond. 

Don’t pass up those kinds of opportunities when it comes to your team. People are already going out on a limb to ask you if you need help, so accept it. Every time. Whether you need it or not. Find a reason to say yes and give that employee the gift of accepting the help. It’s a great team building tool that is vastly underutilized.

4) Leave your ego at the front door

Most people would rather relinquish their credit cards than their ego. And I totally understand. You’re probably thinking that having an intact, healthy ego is what got you here, at the top of your game, surrounded by people who think you’re pretty smart and capable and talented. You would never have had the courage to do half the things you’ve done in your life without your ego intact, right? So what’s this talk about relinquishing it? 

Let’s start the discussion by looking at the difference between confidence and ego because I think that quite often we get the two confused. Confidence is the better looking, smarter fraternal twin of ego. Confidence is the strength of character based on life experience and continued success, whereas ego is a weakness of character, based on insecurity and fear. The world’s best teammates always bring their confidence to the mission but understand that their egos are going to be the heaviest things in their packs. It’s time to lighten the load. 

One of the most important leadership skills and hallmarks of a great leader is that they set out to inspire the people around them versus impress them.  In other words, they leave their ego at the front door and realize that their most important job as a leader isn’t to just be amazing and useful to the organization–it’s to create other leaders and let them lead.