Our shared understanding and appreciation of what it means to be a leader is constantly developing as the values of our culture change. As the opportunities for women to hold leadership positions begin to balance out, organizations and individuals are starting to pay more attention to the valuable attributes women bring into positions of influence.
It seems like it is finally the time when the pressure for women to emulate the leadership styles of men to be perceived as being effective leaders is being replaced with an invitation for women to become confident and comfortable in the way we may more naturally be inclined to lead. This need has become urgent as the world needs transformational, balanced leadership right now.
In learning about transformational leadership, we recognize the innate characteristics of feminine leadership and the value it has in developing the collective capabilities of teams and the well-being of individuals. We also recognize the value of the practice of mentorship in developing or returning to the practice of nurturing others through leadership.
We hope that by learning about transformational leadership, you will recognize characteristics within yourself and feel encouraged to bring them into practice.
Transformational leadership, according to a paper published by Langston University, is defined as a leadership approach that causes changes in individuals and social systems.
In its ideal form, transformational leadership creates valuable and positive change in the followers with the end goal of developing followers into leaders. Enacted in its authentic form, transformational leadership enhances the motivation, morale, and performance of followers through a variety of mechanisms. These include connecting the follower’s sense of identity and self to the mission and the collective identity of the organization; being a role model for followers that inspires them; challenging followers to take greater ownership of their work, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of followers, so the leader can align followers with tasks that optimize their performance. – Transformational Leadership, Langston University
Transformational leadership can be contrasted with transactional leadership. Whereas transactional leadership is based on a “give and take” relationship within an existing culture or system, transformational leadership creates a cultural shift that creates significant change in the life of people and organizations. Transactional leadership is about serving the needs of the individuals directly involved. Transformational leadership is about serving a much greater goal. It is a form of leadership that Inspire team members to collaborate as a single unit towards a shared goal, rather than many individual parts.
Transformational Leadership characteristics
So what are the specific values and behaviors that characterize transformational leadership? The paper published by Langston University describes the following four elements:
1. Individualized Consideration
The degree to which the leader attends to each follower’s needs, acts as a mentor or coach to the follower and listens to the follower’s concerns and needs. The leader gives empathy and support, keeps communication open, and places challenges before the followers. This also encompasses the need for respect and celebrates the individual contribution that each follower can make to the team. The followers have a will and aspirations for self-development and have intrinsic motivation for their tasks.
2. Intellectual Stimulation
The degree to which the leader challenges assumptions, takes risks and solicits followers’ ideas. Leaders with this style stimulate and encourage creativity in their followers. They nurture and develop people who think independently. For such a leader, learning is a value and unexpected situations are seen as opportunities to learn. The followers ask questions, think deeply about things and figure out better ways to execute their tasks.
3. Inspirational Motivation
The degree to which the leader articulates a vision that is appealing and inspiring to followers. Leaders with inspirational motivation challenge followers with high standards, communicate optimism about future goals, and provide meaning for the task at hand. Followers need to have a strong sense of purpose if they are to be motivated to act. Purpose and meaning provide the energy that drives a group forward. The visionary aspects of leadership are supported by communication skills that make the vision understandable, precise, powerful and engaging. The followers are willing to invest more effort in their tasks, they are encouraged and optimistic about the future and believe in their abilities.
4. Idealized Influence
Provides a role model for high ethical behavior, instills pride, and gains respect, and trust.
The power of women as transformational leaders
The opportunity for more women to become balanced and authentic leaders is an opportunity for transformation, within individual relationships, organizations, communities and societies. Perhaps it is the transformation that is required to find more balance within our world – in wealth, equality, wellbeing, environmental impacts and progress.
For more information on the balance that can be achieved with more equality between men and women in leadership positions, and the role of women as transformational leaders, we suggestion reading Professor Alice Eagly’s for the Harvard Business School called ‘Gender & Work, Challenging Conventional Wisdom’. Alice Eagly is a professor of psychology and of management and organizations at Northwestern University. The conclusion of her report reflects our shared belief that developing women into authentic leaders is an opportunity for societal transformation:
“ It is my belief that women leaders act more on behalf of the public good….From my perspective, such leaders would improve our world, but there are many unknowns. To find out whether our societies would thrive and prosper if women shared power equally with men, more women would have to hold the reins of power. My best guess is that the gains of moving expeditiously in this direction far outweigh the risks.” – Professor Alice Eagly
What we are doing at OneUpOneDown to make this happen
One of the challenges for women when it comes to learning and/or practicing authentic leadership is a lack of role modeling and deep-rooted support within our environments. Culture is like a web of expectations, interactions, values and practices that have a very subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) influence on behaviours – what is acceptable, what is not and what is valued, and what is not. It takes time and focused energy to change this, and the more set the culture is, and the people who are upholding it, the more time and energy required.
Our mission at OneUpOneDown is to support women through mentorship to step into leadership positions without having to compromise their authenticity. Our solution is simple but highly effective. We match women with mentors and mentees and in doing so we create relationships that support women to move forward into the positions they desire – positions of leadership and impact. We also provide the space for women to practice qualities of transformational leadership through mentorship. Our solution is a way to address the deep needs of individuals to learn, grow and gain clarity in their abilities and the role they can play within groups, organizations, and cultures. Humans have always learned through experience and relationships. We are enabling this for women at a global level.
It’s an exciting future.