From Transactional Management to Transformational Leadership
Staying in step with customer and client needs is more than fulfilling their requests on a periodic basis and meeting their basic expectations, as any company that excels in client management understands. It is the ability to align every aspect of an enterprise to the needs and expectations, experiences and requirements of clients. Often internally-based organizations including those that are given the objective of being client-focused, end up paradoxically being the most myopic and inward-focused, resistant to change. Any organization that is experiencing this is in danger of losing the most valuable relationships and trust they have with customers. As leaders must continually push accountability, ownership and a clear sense of responsibility for results to the front lines of their enterprises, when traditional management and leadership strategies fail to deliver results, change is required. The intent of this analysis is to provide prescriptive guidance on how leaders can manage this level of disruptive change, defining how managing and leading are vastly different. It is often said that a manager is what one does, and a leader is who one is. The CEO attempting to lead this change management effort or strategy will have to contend with powerful political forces internally that managers who believe in command-and-control will use to subvert and force this initiative to fail. Managers who are accustomed to command-and-control will also fight for their political power base in the organization, despite the fact their often authoritarian and transactional leadership styles are highly ineffective in transforming organizations. The wealth of studies completed on change management indicate that a CEO with Emotional Intelligence (EI) and transformational leadership skills is the most powerful change agent there is in any organization or enterprise (Fitzgerald, Schutte, 2010) (Yarberry, 2007). The CEO needs to model the behavior that is needed to assist these managers in moving beyond their often highly charged political agenda of internal power to realize that by becoming more transformational as leaders they significantly open up their own potential professional growth in the process. The best transformational leaders can more focused on the win-win of personal and professional development also benefiting the organization (Lewis, 1996). These factors are all critically important for the leader looking to bring transformative change to their client organization. Implicit in the structural change of the organization is the even more powerful and potentially disruptive political one. For the leader to be effective in making these changes, they will have to exhibit a very high level of EI, transformational leadership and show a compelling vision of the future, all built on a strong foundation of trust (Wilbanks, 2011).
Setting a Strong Foundation of Transformational Leadership Is Critical
The greatest risk of failure the leader's plan has is the significant amount of political pressure and backlash he will face as managers seek to protect their status, including access to information and systems, that others cannot get to right now. Yet this major force of resistance must be overcome through the use of effective leadership techniques and strategies, centering on the broader, more compelling vision of what will make the entire organization successful; In short, the leader must counter these formidable political forces aligned with command-and-control with just as equally a strong case of significant change (Bordum, 2010). For the leader to be effective, he will need to successfully communicate the immediacy and urgency of change while anchoring that call to action with a very compelling vision for the future (Boga, Ensari, 2009). In reflecting on this aspect of leadership, the many examples of Steve Jobs and his passionate focus on quality and an exceptional customer experience as told in his recently released autobiography (Dykstra-Erickson, Hoddie, Wasko, 2011).
In responding how the leader should deal with the situation, he needs to first establish credibility and trust in his vision for the future. Once he defines and communicate a compelling vision for the future, he needs to show how in the context of empowering front-line employees with more power to make decisions and delight clients an entirely new dimensions of the command-and-control manager's professional working world opens up. The leader needs to also seek out these managers' insight, intelligence and opinions in redefining and reorganizing the organization to be more client-focused. This is another best practice that most adept leaders rely on: they seek out those who need to change the most for their inputs and support by giving them a voice in the change process and end state the leaders are aiming to achieve. This ability to gain support by giving those most affected by a decision greater control over the outcome is a critical aspect of EI skills the best transformational leaders have. Again the examples of Steve Jobs challenging his design teams to create the first smartphone (iPhone) to the disruptive innovation of the iPad that is now completely revolutionizing entire industries (Dykstra-Erickson, Hoddie, Wasko, 2011).
An effective leader looking to lead rather than just manage this significant shift to pushing accountability, responsibility and performance management to the front-line members needs to look at the managers as co-authors of the vision of a more responsive organization (Fitzgerald, Schutte, 2010). This is the essence of participative management effectiveness; the ability to bring in even those who seek to disrupt and make a plan fail is given a voice in the vision and execution of the plan (Herold, Fedor, Caldwell, Liu, 2008). Being able to diffuse political backlash of change is a very valuable skill in any leader, it is considered by management theorists the essence of EI and transformational leadership. The focus needs to shift away from the front-line employees to making the chain-of-command managers realize their professional futures are more determined by how client-centric their business is, not how politically protected their present positions are. EI skills give leaders the ability to sense and respond to this and create opportunities for the most threated by change to have a voice, and over time, ownership of the shift to a more client-driven organization..
Confronting Resistance To Change, Not Ignoring It, Is Critical
For the leader to make the transition to a client-driven organization as thorough and effective as possible, resistance to change cannot be sidestepped or even woven into the actual implementation of the program (Lewis, 1996). It needs to be dealt with openly, honestly and as candidly and pragmatically as possible. Opponents to the change to a more client-driven organization might perceive lack of confrontation about change management as the willingness of the leader to ignore or worse yet, in fear, not confront others about the need to change (Warrick, 2011). Opponents to change management programs seek to capitalize on this silence and strive to make even a greater disruption in organizations by filling the void of leaders with their own options. This is one of the most disruptive and damaging areas of change management that can occur if a leader doesn't step up and take control of the situation and define the direction of the organization. For the leader bringing his organization forward to be more client-centric, this threat needs to be with open, honest discussion with those opposing the move. The managers who believe chain of command approach will need to be given a critical role in the change as well. In giving these managers more responsibility as part of the change management program, they will see that if the organization can grow due to better client support and sales, their careers may actually progress faster than they had though in the past (Yarberry, 2007). The leader needs to use the vision of change and growth of the company, and given these chain of command managers a very clear set of priorities and tasks to complete. By giving them not only a voice in the vision by a critical role in its attainment, the leader gives them a chance to have a much greater level of ownership (Stensaker, Langley, 2010). An exceptional leader will have the ability to explain to each and every person how their contributions are crucial to the new vision being attained, giving each a chance to see how they can also grow personally and professionally, in many cases, at the same time (Armenakis, Harris, 2002). The greater the depth and extent of change any organization faces, the higher the level of potential for employees, from front-line associates to managers and senior executives, to attain greater personal and professional growth. This is the finding of several studies on the impact of successful change management programs throughout organizations globally. With so many potential opportunities for personal and professional growth in successful change management programs, leaders need to include examples and stories of these for the benefit of their subordinates and peers. Transactional leadership skills, which are highly effective in short-term projects and getting immediate responses from subordinates, fail to deliver long-term change in behavior and can often to a stimulus-driven management style. Managers who are too…