How do leaders actually transform organisations?

We had another wonderful OD Café this week and we are sharing some of the feedback and learnings in this week’s newsletter with you here.

We started off defining organisational transformation as planned, sustained, large-scale, revolutionary change to enhance performance and to boost organisational health. In other words, it is radical, it reshapes organisations, and it disrupts. We need transformational leaders to lead this type of change.

We went ahead to explore what it is that transformational leaders do, the old-gold research as well as what is new and concluded that there is not too much new but that the current language in leadership theory is different, yes, old wine in new bottles! 

Below is a summary of the feedback of real lived experiences from our community in terms of what works in large transformations and what does not:

  • Leaders need to be committed to the transformation, aligned on what needs to happen. Senior leaders need time to thrash out what they agree and don’t agree on, to speak with one voice. It is very obvious when the senior team is not committed, and this will impact the project negatively.
  • The impact of the leaders’ personality plays a big role, emotional intelligence is very important, their social skills, ability to listen and tell stories. They need to be ‘people leaders’ and truly and authentically care about their impact, be kind and lead with their hearts.
  • Culture needs to be a focus area right from the onset and the senior leaders need to drive this shift.
  • The transformation needs to become the new way of work and not seen or treated as a once off project or event.
  • Senior leaders need to be humble enough to accept that there will be challenges and set-backs, own up to it and learn from it. As OD practitioners it could be our role to be the mirror for the leaders but have to build up enough rapport and gain their trust.
  • Leaders learn how to lead large transformations by being ‘in it’ but there is also some foundational work to be done in terms of self-leadership. We need to help our leaders to get ready to lead and then help them step into action projects to learn on the ground.

In conclusion, for these large disruptive changes to work, we need strong yet humble leaders, we need leaders with high EQ who are truly committed to their people and the success of the project, and we need leadership teams who are committed and communicate an inspirational vision that goes hand-in-hand with goals and concrete actions. 

We help leaders to get ready to lead and then support this journey through action learning and projects. Do you need help to develop your leaders to be up for such a task?

Talk to us, that is what we do!