The 7 Core Beliefs of a Transformational Change Leader

If you're a Transformational Change Leader (TCL) in the land of Transactional Managers (TM), you're going to be in for a battle. TMs are threatened by TCLs! However, TCLs are needed in more quantity than ever before.

by Bob Tipton

I’ve been assembling the list of “The 7 Core Beliefs of Transformational Change Leaders” (TCLs) over the past several years, and I’ve come to discover that these folks are just — well — different. You “know” it when you’re in their presence…

What do TCLs believe?

Take a look at their 7 core beliefs below.

(NOTE: I’ve contrasted the beliefs of a transformational change leader with what I call a “transactional manager.” As you read, ask yourself — which am I? Which is my boss? My CEO? etc.)

Belief 1.

Take the situation seriously, but not yourself.

Transactional managers keep score when it comes to the times and places “they” are viewed as contributing. It’s almost like they’re playing the game of “Survivor” when it comes to change — where alliances and immunity (playing the “game” the right way) are more important than doing the right thing.

Transformational change leaders don’t think less “of” themselves, they think less “about” themselves. In other words, they demonstrate a self-less confidence when it comes to the situation at hand. They are able to quiet their ego’s need to “be right,” and focus on the big picture, the overall benefits to the organization. And — ironically — they become indispensable to the organization as a result.

Belief 2.

Understand that paralyzing anxiety is representative of leadership immaturity.

Transactional managers start with a “confidence deficit” related to change, and will not promote transformational change until they have sufficiently satisfied their personal fears and concerns. They may begrudgingly “go along” with the change (out of fear, usually), but they will not become an advocate for the change until their confidence deficit is satisfied.

Transformational change leaders understand that anxiety is the ego’s way of expressing fear of the unknown. These leaders know that the unknown is a normal, everyday kind of thing, and realize that fear solves little. As such, they look beyond their ego’s limiting perspectives and far more quickly move toward exploring the benefits of any change.

Belief 3.

Know that transformational change cannot happen “through” me unless it has happened “to” me.

Transactional managers search for “silver bullet” answers related to change from sources outside of themselves (books, CDs, podcasts, conferences, etc.). They tend to operate from the perspective of “do as I’ve been told to do.” They don’t “own” the answer, they just go through the motions of “doing” the answer.

Transformational change leaders internalize the wisdom they have PERSONALLY gained related to transformational change (the good, the bad, and the ugly). They then are able to empathize and feel compassion for those whom they are leading through the change. “Do as I have done” is their mantra — been there, done that.

Belief 4.

Believe that innovation is an attitude and is not just something on a “to do” list.

Transactional managers view innovation as a reaction to something — poor customer service, declining profitability, etc. Only when the status quo has been failing for a while will they begin to look at innovation as a “way out” of the dilemma. Then, when things return to a good place, innovation can go on the back burner again.

Transformational change leaders view innovation as being central to everything: product / service life cycles, customer relationships, marketing, etc. Everything can be innovated — from a brand new product line to the automated reply email that comes after a customer places an order. Innovation is tied to improvement, and improvement is a continuous thing.

Belief 5.

Understand that people don’t resist change; instead, people resist “being changed” without their permission.

Transactional managers seek buy-in related to change. They think if they just put on more webinars and send more emails, eventually ”the others” will eventually get it, and will finally buy-in. And, if that doesn’t work — it’s time to bring out the “performance management” systems to MAKE people change.

Transformational change leaders understand that transformational change starts with a grieving process (endings) followed by a process of each individual “choosing” to become part of the change (new beginnings). They know that aligned, focused, positive energy is an unstoppable force when it comes to change — and this type of energy comes by choice, not by force.

Belief 6.

Invest only in the “best” options, and have the courage to let the other options fall away.

Transactional managers have little desire to place their bets on only one option — and seem to hedge in favor of “covering all the bases.” This approach dilutes the limited resources of their organization, and creates little focus when it comes to strategy or direction. They try to be “all things to all people” out of fear of missing something or upsetting someone.

Transformational change leaders are able to effectively weigh one option versus another — and allow themselves to make decisions based upon “maximum potential” for success. They demonstrate decisiveness and courage when it comes to implementing only the “best” right answer.

Belief 7.

Focus on what “wants to happen” instead of myopically trying to “make things happen.”

Transactional managers operate from a “to-do” list most of the time, or simply react to a never-ending list of action items in a “whac-a-mole” fashion. Their success is measured by the quantity of their activity, and not by the quality of their results. Often, they will invest weeks, months or even years is pursing failed projects — just because their “to-do” list keeps telling them to check things off.

Transformational change leaders regularly “feel the pulse” of their customers, their markets, their industries, their staff, and their stakeholders to sense emerging desires, trends, and perspectives. Their radar is finely tuned to the “energy” associated with situations, and they become highly adept at trusting their intuition. They are willing — even eager — to shift direction in order to stay connected to the “gulf stream” of positive energy flowing within their organizations.

No doubt, there’s a giant mindset shift between a transactional manager (TM) and a transformational change leader (TCL).  Which do you think you are right now? Which would describe members of your senior leadership team? Your CEO?

If you’re a TCL in the land of TMs, you’re going to be in for a battle. TMs are threatened by TCLs! TCLs don’t accept the status quo, aren’t satisfied with “safe” solutions, and continuously challenge limiting beliefs. Conversely, if you’re a TM in the land of TCLs — well, let’s just say your career will be “limited.”

Obviously I have a bias here — TCLs are needed in more quantity than ever before. The world is become MORE complex, not less, and the more time we spend transactionally managing things, the further behind we get.

Don’t get behind. Become — or stay — a TCL!


Read my related blog “The 5 Essential Behaviors of a Transformational Change Leader.”

For more information about how to ENSURE change will fail, read my blog on the “Top 10 Ways to Ensure Epic Organizational Change Failures.”

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