Busi­ness Transformation

Trans­for­ma­tion­al Lead­er­ship For A Post- Pan­dem­ic World

June 25, 2021


Krish­na Paupamah

Country Manager Regional Country Manager

There’s no “best” lead­er­ship style, no “mag­ic bul­let” when it comes to lead­ing a com­pa­ny. But a cer­tain style of lead­er­ship is ide­al for cer­tain circumstances.

At a time when com­pa­nies are try­ing to think of out-of-the-box meth­ods to nav­i­gate a post-pandemic future, when the old ways of doing busi­ness or work may no longer be applic­a­ble, lead­er­ship styles may need to change too.

Vision­ary lead­er­ship is said to be ide­al for times when organ­i­sa­tions are rethink­ing busi­ness mod­els or set­ting new direc­tions. Vision­ary lead­ers see the world dif­fer­ent­ly. They are not lim­it­ed by “shoulds” or “this is how things are always done”. They encour­age oth­ers to exper­i­ment and innovate.

But vision with­out action is use­less. Lead­ers who have their heads too much in the future will be “all ideas but no results”. Often, I find that lead­er­ship is not lack­ing in vision – they often have an abun­dance of it. What they lack, how­ev­er, is good execution.

That’s why I pre­fer “trans­for­ma­tion­al lead­er­ship”. It means being proac­tive instead of reac­tive. Get­ting things done instead of pro­cras­ti­nat­ing. Turn­ing vision into reality.

Cul­ti­vat­ing trans­for­ma­tion­al leadership

Lead­er­ship expert James Mac­Gre­gor Burns is said to have come up with the con­cept of trans­for­ma­tion­al lead­er­ship in 1978.Transformational lead­er­ship, he said, will be trans­for­ma­tive for both the leader and the follower.

In an ever-evolving world, organ­i­sa­tions need to be proac­tive. They need to come up with new solu­tions to stay ahead of the time. Dur­ing times like these, your company’s man­age­ment will dif­fer­en­ti­ate it from aver­age to extraordinary.

Trans­for­ma­tion­al lead­ers are need­ed because they:

  • Encour­age and unite peo­ple with a com­mon goal
  • Inspire peo­ple to reach higher 
  • Inno­vate and exper­i­ment, take risks and head out to new directions
  • Make strate­gic plans on how to get there

They inspire peo­ple with the vision of change and help oth­ers see it. They realise that for trans­for­ma­tion to hap­pen, every­one needs to be aligned to the same goal and must know how they direct­ly con­tribute. They take time to engage and com­mu­ni­cate the vision to their people. 

When we think about trans­for­ma­tion­al lead­ers, we imag­ine the Steve Jobs and the Elon Musks of the world.

How­ev­er, this style of lead­er­ship is not just reserved for the C‑Suite. Mid­dle and lower-level man­agers should prac­tice this type of lead­er­ship too as they car­ry out the strate­gic change.

Dan­ger comes when exec­u­tives are not aligned with the trans­for­ma­tion­al strat­e­gy. Vision­ary lead­er­ship with­out organ­i­sa­tion­al align­ment may cre­ate con­fu­sion with employ­ees. (Man­agers are often not aligned because they’re too focused on their depart­men­tal goals instead of the big picture.)

So whilst trans­for­ma­tion­al lead­er­ship starts from the top, to be tru­ly effec­tive, it must be clear­ly deployed down the ranks.

Reshap­ing for recovery

As signs of recov­ery ten­ta­tive­ly creep back into the econ­o­my, forward-looking organ­i­sa­tions are work­ing to rede­fine their “busi­ness as usu­al” and arrive at a trans­for­ma­tion­al strat­e­gy. Along the way there are impor­tant aspects that you, as a leader, should consider:

Estab­lish a com­pelling need: In 2020, your organ­i­sa­tion endured a cri­sis, piv­ot­ed, and changed. An impor­tant reflec­tion is the fact that this rapid change hap­pened because there was a very com­pelling need to change. Make sure that for your future strate­gies you iden­ti­fy and con­stant­ly com­mu­ni­cate a com­pelling need for change.

Com­mu­ni­cate with empa­thy: Good change lead­ers con­sis­tent­ly com­mu­ni­cate the pur­pose of the change, tie it back to com­pa­ny strat­e­gy and explain how it will ben­e­fit employ­ees. This is Lead­er­ship 101. How­ev­er, dur­ing unprece­dent­ed times like these, com­mu­ni­ca­tion needs to be blend­ed with empa­thy to build trust and estab­lish buy in.

Build resilience: Lead­ers must be resilient phys­i­cal­ly and men­tal­ly so that they can main­tain the ener­gy required to facil­i­tate the change. Every­thing is dif­fi­cult before it is easy – high lev­els of time and atten­tion must be sus­tained to dri­ve through sig­nif­i­cant trans­for­ma­tion. You may be a leader, but you are also human. Be sure to take care of your­self first before tak­ing care of others.

Bal­ance patience and sup­port: Effec­tive trans­for­ma­tion­al lead­ers remem­ber that peo­ple need time to change. They may need to be patient and give peo­ple space. How­ev­er, they also need to recog­nise when sup­port is required. Fail­ing to address people’s capac­i­ty to change (this can be band­width, capa­bil­i­ties, resources, or tools) is one of the top rea­sons change efforts flounder.

Build on the cul­ture of change: Dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, the fac­tors that enabled the rapid changes – the cham­pi­ons that ral­lied employ­ees, the sys­tems that were put togeth­er overnight –are still alive in the com­pa­ny. Suc­cess breeds suc­cess. So, build on the recent cul­ture of change that your peo­ple have expe­ri­enced. If we’ve done this before, we can do this again!

Walk the talk: To gar­ner par­tic­i­pa­tion, you your­self must par­tic­i­pate in the efforts. Be an exam­ple and encour­age oth­ers to be the same.

Dur­ing the height of the pan­dem­ic, most organ­i­sa­tions oper­at­ed in cri­sis mode. As the world moves towards a post-pandemic recov­ery, lead­ers must be ready to guide their organ­i­sa­tions out of emer­gency mode into some­thing of a sem­blance of nor­mal­i­ty. Yet, the cri­sis remains in the back­ground. Sup­ply chains remain over­stretched and work­ing restric­tions con­tin­ue. So, it’s still impor­tant to steer organ­i­sa­tions on a trans­for­ma­tion­al journey.

That is a big job.

You may well have heard the expres­sion: “It’s 1% inspi­ra­tion and 99% per­spi­ra­tion.” In the end, trans­for­ma­tion­al lead­er­ship is much less about vision but more about deliv­ery. Do you agree?

Krish­na Pau­pamah has worked with com­pa­nies glob­al­ly to trans­form their busi­ness for over 35 years. He is the Founder and Group CEO of Renoir Consulting.

This arti­cle first appeared in Busi­ness Today.


Krish­na Paupamah

Country Manager Regional Country Manager

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