Definition

transformational leadership

Contributor(s): Jerry Luftman

Transformational leadership is the ability of an individual or a group of individuals to foster significant change, often by leveraging new technology.

Transformational leaders possess the ability to embrace change and lead their organization through such change by anticipating the impact it will have on the organization and perhaps on the entire industry. They also embody leadership traits such as emotional intelligence, willingness to collaborate and empathy.

In information technology (IT), transformational leaders must have a large capacity to deal with the exceptional rate of industry change and the ability to execute plans to deploy complex new technologies, while recognizing the implications -- especially around security and privacy -- of these changes on other technologies.

Today's business transformation is being driven by a group of technologies collectively and broadly referred to as SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud computing). Within the SMAC classification, the Internet of Thingscognitive computing and robotics process automation (RPA) are expected to significantly change how companies operate. It is essential that transformational chief information officers (CIOs) or IT executives keep abreast of IT innovation and take time to assess how newer technologies could positively impact business processes. At the same time, transformational IT leaders must ensure that the non-IT executives are engaged in these initiatives that will change how business gets done.

When hiring transformational leaders, organizations and human resource departments should seek people who possess a general understanding of how groundbreaking technologies and newer ways of thinking about business are best leveraged; it is also essential they have an understanding of how to use these technologies in their organizations. Those hiring should also pursue candidates with strong communication skills and the ability -- and willingness -- to execute organizational change and foster a culture of innovation.

This was last updated in March 2016

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In what ways does your organization's management embrace a transformational leadership style?
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One method we employee is a yearly technical summit that allows employees from all departments to present ideas, research, and proof of concepts that they have with respect to new and emerging technologies.
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