How to become a transformational leader.

When you stop to think about it, it’s almost breathtaking how fast the world is changing these days.

Yet, while our operating systems are updating at a rate of knots, sometimes it seems our human systems – our beliefs and habits – are lagging behind.

Change alters us in fundamental ways – how we live, work and play. Some changes we like. Others make us hyperventilate. But it’s how we navigate this rapid change that determines what kind of leader we are.

Extensive research shows that more emotionally intelligent leaders can achieve more exceptional performance, effort and effectiveness in their lives and work.[1] And there’s a new breed of open-minded, global-centric individuals who are ideally equipped to use their emotional intelligence to inspire, empower and motivate others to navigate change with ease.

We call them transformational leaders.

How to recognise a transformational leader when you see one.

Transformative leaders eat rapid change for breakfast. They instinctively know it delivers unique opportunities to unlock your true potential, evolve and grow.

They’re trailblazers with the foresight to see past the status quo and set a new direction for their tribe – whether that’s in business, at home or in the cultural sphere.

They’re are born-motivators. They’re relentlessly positive about personal growth as a tool for guiding others through uncertain environments – and that’s why their talents are now more critical than ever.

You’ll see transformative leaders creating supportive spaces where responsibility is shared, innovation is mandatory, and performance is boosted beyond expectations. They’ll be the ones collaboratively working to lift themselves and their teams to ever-higher levels of achievement – and that’s precisely why their people genuinely trust, respect and admire them.

From a psychological perspective, a transformational leader will exhibit the following EQ-style behaviours:  

  • Idealised influence – transformational leaders walk their talk as an exemplary role model for their followers.
  • Inspirational motivation – transformational leaders can clearly express their visionary ideas in simple language to inspire audiences at all levels.
  • Individualised consideration – they genuinely care about helping others to self-actualise, helping them to overcome problems with actionable strategies.
  • Intellectual stimulation – they’re both creative and pioneering, challenging others to transform the status quo and boost performance.

If we’re talking Big Five personality factors, transformational leaders are extroverted, emotionally stable, open to experiences and big picture visions, and highly agreeable.[2]

How to build your transformational leadership skills at work.

The good news is that transformational leadership skills aren’t always innate – they can be learned.

Research confirms that emotional intelligence and the world’s most successful transformational leaders are highly correlated.[3] Leadership, it seems, is both enhanced and fuelled by emotional intelligence.

Here’s my four best tips for flexing your transformational EQ muscles today:

  1. Think before you emote. A stronger ability to self-reflect is indicative of an emotionally intelligent leader. When you’re having a bad day at work, rather than railing against the world in a dark cloud of frustration, pinpoint what the real problem is. Be specific. Write it down. Add possible ways to avoid the same problem in the future. Allow yourself to look at the negative experience from an adjacent perspective and watch your bad mood lift. How can you reframe rather than complain? Challenges face us in every part of our lives – what can you learn from yours? How can you use optimism to bounce back? Think differently and think big.
  • Get up front and intimate with your common triggers. Be proactive about neutralising the things that stress you out. Understand your triggers inside and out – if late night work leaves you strung out and snappy the next day, rework your schedule to make sure you eliminate it as much as possible. If particular people push your buttons, try looking at the situation from their point of view – this 3-2-1 Shadow approach is beneficial for turning your default reactions around and developing empathy for (seemingly) difficult others.
  • One management style doesn’t fit all. Use the power of individualised consideration to adapt your management style to motivate the different personalities on your team. Coach them to achieve more than they dreamed possible by assigning work based on talents. Help them rise to a challenge and learn new skills by pushing them beyond their comfort zone. Show you care about them as people by supporting their career growth.
  • Walk your talk. Flex your idealised influence skills to role model desired behaviours. Use your innate self-awareness to dispassionately assess all available information to make the right or moral choice for the collective good. Act with integrity set clear goals, and your team will subconsciously follow your example.

Ush Dhanak is a sought-after Emotional Intelligence Coach working with companies and individuals across the globe, including the Australia Federal Police, Smeg Australia, all the way to hospitality and dental. She has qualifications and certifications in Executive Coaching, Emotional Intelligence Coaching, Neuro Leadership and Mediation and is on the Board of Directors for Hunterlink, an employee wellbeing service.

Become the leader you aspire to be

& make better decisions with

Actionable Strategies for Growing as a Person And a Professional

join the program