Article: Transforming leadership style in the changing business environment


Transforming leadership style in the changing business environment

Leaders strive to build great culture in their organizations as once they get that right, most things will happen.

What distinguishes Authentic leaders is the passion, purpose and values that always guide their behaviour both at work as well as personal life


We are witness to the shifts or breakthroughs in technology, internet, increasing competition, trade agreements that deconstruct tariff barriers, deregulation, FDI, and changing demographics that make it impossible to maintain the growth rate without rethinking the strategy. It is even more pertinent to the Indian economy given our inflationary pressures and the desire to grow at double digits to maintain the real growth rate. Delivering a 5% is no longer viable and in order to survive, major changes in everything from organizational structure to the business delivery model or even the product mix are needed. And more change always demands more leadership. Hence it has become imperative for the business leaders to provide transformational leadership.

One way to approach this challenge is to manage the “change” that is so critical to overcome the competition and the unpredictable and volatile nature of the business. People mistakenly believe that quick fixes will be able to get the job done. People also feel that too much change is not good to handle at one time. In such circumstances a crisis helps to mobilise the team, introduces a sense of urgency and gets everyone on board. Sometimes you may need a burning platform to get everyone aligned. Sometimes fear may be good, helps to make the employees less complacent.

John Kotter, well renowned professor at Harvard Business School and world-renowned change expert, formulated his 8-step change process in his book, "Leading Change”.

Step 1: Create Urgency

Step 2: Form a Powerful Coalition

Step 3: Create a Vision for Change

Step 4: Communicate the Vision

Step 5: Remove Obstacles

Step 6: Create Short-Term Wins

Step 7: Build on the Change

Step 8: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture

Another approach for transformational leadership is by way of changing the “culture” of the organization.  Leaders strive to build great culture in their organizations as once they get that right, most things will happen. A high performance culture taps into the passion of employees, irrespective of their gender, seniority, skills and demographics. It is also not dependent on perks as has been popularized by many of the new age companies that boast of gourmet cafeterias and spa treatments for the employees.

However paradoxically, the next stage that organizations need to move to is where the thinking changes from “I am great” to “We are great”. The commonly observed characteristics being that members are excited to be with another member of the organization, people make eye contact, everyone is inspired and glad to be a member of the tribe. Leader feels energized by the group and leadership becomes effortless. People take pride in the team and the organization. Many a times a competing organization becomes a foe that is targeted, and the comparison becomes “We are great and they are not”. Bigger the foe, more powerful the organizational culture and stronger the tribe.

Organizations that have tribal cultures, flourish, with their leaders having a cult following. They are not only able to attract the best talent but also able to retain them, working as talent magnets. Tribes and leaders create each other. A leader recognizes her company as a tribe and knows exactly and for some intrinsic reason what to do to drive the team for the optimal results. Majority of the organizations have culture that has been described as “Stage 3” by authors Dave Logan and Halee Fischer Wright in their book, “Tribal Leadership” and it is the responsibility of the leader to lead the transformation of the organization to move to the next stage.

The third important element for transformational leadership is “authenticity”.  What distinguishes Authentic leaders is the passion, purpose and values that always guide their behaviour both at work as well as personal life. They not only lead by their heads, but also their heart. They are able to build personal relationships that are lifelong and meaningful, as they know who they are at the core of their heart.

Being Authentic is a path to self discovery, a lifelong prayer that one has to embark on. It requires a firm commitment, the same as a musician or a chess master would make devoting oneself to a lifetime of discipline. Authentic leaders willingly listen to feedback even if it may be negative. They have learnt to accept defeat and failures, take criticism and move on. It is a value that is core to the success of any leader that has set on the path to transformation. 

Topics: HR Insights, Leadership

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