For transformation, first leaders must change

Good leaders change their role during growth transformation programmes. They know that if they don't change themselves, transformation won't happen. Great leaders go through a personal transformational journey as their business grows. Mahatma Gandhi’s famous edict, “For things to change, first I must change” still resonates today.

What is less clear is how precisely the leader’s behaviour needs to change throughout the transformation process. Figuring this out can be tricky. Most are involved in just a few transformations over their career.

To understand more how leader’s change their roles, we have just completed a review of 20 Growth Transformation Engagements of mid-sized companies. We examined the role of the leader and how it evolved during classical stages like creating the vision, prioritising strategic challenges and executing the plan.

We looked at behaviours, which led to success and those, which flashed warning signs. It was clear that good leaders changed their style, role and questions throughout the transformation. Some clear trends emerged.

  1. FIRE - In the early days of a transformation, good leaders light a fire in their team’s bellies. They balance passion, empathy and openness. Good leaders ask - what assumptions do we need to challenge? 
  2. EARTH - As the project becomes real, leaders become more like gardeners, challenging their teams to get to the root cause of issues buried in the earth. Good leaders ask - what should we start or stop doing?
  3. SKY - As the growth blueprint becomes clearer, leaders create tension between the earth (where the company is today) and the promising sky of the future. Good leaders ask – what will drive this transformation?
  4. WATER - Later as execution comes into play, leaders provide water and resources to fuel the transformation. Good leaders ask – what have you done?
  5. WIND - Finally to realise the growth transformation, leaders become like the wind delivering energy through constant communication, encouragement and correction. Good leaders ask - what is really happening versus what was expected?

Each element is important – each feeds and balances the other. If the transformation is all about fire in the belly without the other elements, it won’t succeed. The graphic below summarises what we found.

Leadership behaviours at each stage of Growth Transformation

Leadership behaviours for successful transformation

Download Graphic Now


Insight in Brief

Successful growth transformation programmes require a change in the leader's behaviour. To understand how a leader's behaviour evolves during this process, we reviewed 20 Growth Transformation Engagements and discovered that at each stage of Growth Transformation some clear trends emerged. 

Insight in Action

  1. Fire - Good leaders light a fire in their teams bellies
  2. Earth - They get to the root cause of issues buried in the earth
  3. Sky - They create tension between the earth and the promising sky of the future
  4. Water - They provide the resources or water to fuel the transformation
  5. Wind - They become like the wind delivering energy to drive the transformation

The Growth Transformer's Roadmap eBook brings the reader through the five steps necessary for transformational change. Click on the link below to download your FREE copy today.

FREE Download The Growth Transformer's Roadmap