Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Power of Transformational Leadership

For a company to succeed long term, it must have a high performance work system, says Technology Leadership Association President Richard Fulwiler, at this year's International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago. To succeed, there must be trust and commitment, both of which are best nurtured when the workforce is engaged, and safety and employee well-being are part of the culture.

According to Fulwiler, there are two types of leaders: transactional and transformational. Transactional leaders operate from command-control mode. They focus on costs and financial goals, and have a quid pro relationship with their workers. “This will get you average,” Fulwiler adds.

On the other hand, transformational leaders operate from a collaborative mode. They lead by influence, encourage employee involvement and team building, and genuinely care about worker wellness. “This is the key to productivity and high performance work systems,” Fulwiler says, adding that this leads to above average outcomes. He describes five key characteristics that make up a transformational leader:
  1. Listen: Seek first to understand then to be understood. Listen for meaning and feeling (empathetic listening), not just facts. 
  2. Communicate: Speak in a language that your workers can understand. Be open to feedback and to criticism.
  3. Care: Visibly demonstrate that you really care about the your employees' safety and health.
  4. Be collegial: Interact and relate employees on all levels. Try to make workers feel at ease. 
  5. Engage: Convey a sense of worth to the workers. Link the workers' needs with the company’s needs. 
According to Fulwiler, when workers’ values align with leaders’ values, employees are empowered to engage in the work process. From this point only – where employees are fully engaged in safety – can a business move forward and be successful.