Byron's Babbles

Transformational Leadership

One of my biggest frustrations is working with leaders who have the old leader-follower or command and control mindset. It is really hard to coach these leaders out of this behavior. The disposition is driven by a lack of self confidence, an over-active ego, and lazy leadership. The easiest way to lead is to command and then watch others do the work – then berate them when the job does not meet expectations. The transformational leader empowers team members, and this is not the easy way out. It really comes down to the question of , “What is your mantra?” Mine is “Make it so!” I strive to have team members come with plans for great things they want to do to put students first and then for me to instantly say: “Make it so!”

  The absolute expert at this is David Marquet, author of Turn the Ship Around. David  Marquet was the captain of the USS Santa Fe, a nuclear-powered submarine, and was responsible for more than a hundred sailors, deep in the sea. The bottom line: under Marquet’s transformational leadership, every crew member became a leader and assumed responsibility for everything he did, from clerical tasks to crucial combat decisions. Through his mantra of “I intend to…” where crew members were empowered to come to him and tell him what they intended to do, the crew became fully engaged, contributing their full intellectual capacity every day, and the Santa Fe started winning awards. Ultimately, the USS Santa Fe ended up promoting a highly disproportionate number of officers to submarine command. If that’s not growing your people through empowerment and building your bench, I don’t know what is! 

“Leadership should mean giving control rather than taking control and creating leaders rather than forging followers.” ~ David Marquet

  In lesson #30 of The Disciplined Leader, John Manning advices against micromanaging and encourages empowering employees to develop a culture of performance and productivity. I believe we need think micro-knowledge not micromanage. Our team members have a great deal of very specific and tacit knowledge that we need to be a catalyst for developing our team members for action. In other words, help them to “make it so.” I have tried to model this. A recent example is one of our teachers, Jill Landers. Read her story on empowerment in her guest post to my blog by clicking here. Or, check out this video:

Successful empowerment comes down to four important elements:

  1. Having skilled and trained team members that have the knowledge and ability base to carry out the tasks.
  2. Present new challenges and opportunities to your team members. It’s important to challenge your employees so they can demonstrate and achieve their full potential.
  3. Give them flexibility to do things their way. You may want to grab the steering wheel and drive, but let them “make it so.” Or, as David Marquet did, let them come to you and say, “I intend to…”
  4. Provide hyper-personalized professional growth, but do not babysit.

Truly transformational leaders are able to prevent employees from being excessively reliant on their bosses, cultivating instead a staff that feels empowered and self-guided. Are you up for being transformational? 


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