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What are The Key Competencies of Transformation Leaders?

Can an organization truly transform if its leaders aren’t willing to transform themselves? Leaders often move ahead with their business transformation without questioning their own capabilities, believing that the changes they are introducing will be enough to change how their employees think and work. They forget how much they themselves have to embody the change, because all eyes are on them.

To transform an organization you have to manage differently

I have been working for many years with leaders implementing transformations. As much as I admire their qualities, most are unfamiliar with what is involved in managing a true transformation. They are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to running a business, developing strategic plans, executing projects or managing staff, but when it is a question of transformation, a major strategic shift, they often find themselves in a whole new playing field.

Transformation requires a new set of skills

Nothing is more demanding for leaders than implementing a transformation. Not only do they have to make decisions for which they have no reference point, take ownership of increasingly complex new realities and execute everything efficiently and quickly in the throes of day-to-day operations, they must also question their beliefs, management style and leadership skills in the new playing field. Whew!

Here are some of the key skills I have seen in effective transformation leaders:

  • They know how to navigate complexity. They have the ability to take action and make decisions taking into account their vision of the future, operational realities, culture, personalities, execution, and limited resources, along with all the interlinkages among these many aspects. 
  • They are open. They advance toward a vision with clarity and determination, but are also open to letting solutions emerge along the way.
  • They can rally people. They are constantly refining their ability to lead people and groups with divergent positions to converge on common solutions.
  • They are there to serve. They understand that one of their primary roles is to provide direction and eliminate obstacles for those carrying out the transformation.
  • They ask questions rather than make statements. They understand that their people move faster and engage more actively when, by asking questions, they lead them to define the problem, explore solutions, confront their beliefs and implement the chosen strategies.

How can you develop those skills?

First by specifying the key skills you expect from your leaders in the transformation. Limit yourself to two or three at first to maintain the focus. Be specific about the behaviours you are looking for. Hold workshops with your leaders to create the necessary awareness. Provide ongoing follow-up and support, because you cannot make this sort of change happen simply by saying it should.

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