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Be Vaporous

Equilibrium can be achieved through status quo – innovation, growth and vitality result from transformation. That’s true of organizations and it’s true of individuals. Leaders don’t deliver new and exciting results by doing the same old thing. A manager of mine once said, “don’t be flexible, be vaporous”. In 2020, that’s what a transformational leader must be: Vaporous. Vaporous is beyond flexible, it’s the next level. It’s being able to adapt to anything and beyond.

Today, in a world where we’re forced to adopt technology and video conferencing as the norm, where virtually every aspect of living life has changed, we have to go way out of our comfort zone. To our knowledge, there’s no step-by-step guide to transformational leadership; however, the journey is marked by a few guiding principles.

During the past nineteen years we’ve had the privilege to work with senior executives in various industries around the world and we’ve seen a pattern in leaders who are transformational. If you want to be a transformational leader – one who is vaporous – here are guiding principles to consider:

What got you here won’t get you there. This phrase, borrowed from executive coaching guru Marshall Goldsmith, hits the mark. Many leaders ascend their positions by their own competencies, intellect, management skills, education, and professional experience. However, these are not elements of transformational leadership. Why? Because transformational leadership isn’t about what the individual leader is capable of doing, it’s about what the individual is able to inspire others to do.

Inspiration is more important than ever as we lean into this world of social distancing, meeting by Zoom and trying to figure out which grocery store still has toilet paper. While you’re probably tempted to give your team space to figure out personal situations on their own, keep in mind we live in a time when your people need more than ever to know you care about them as individuals and that you are interested in their lives.

Discern best from good. Virtually all businesses and non-profit organizations have at least one thing in common: There’s more do than can possibly get done, especially now with all the information overload, competing priorities, competitive pressures, budget cuts, and serious financial issues that render it impossible to meet expectations others have of us.

Transformational leaders ruthlessly prioritize, letting go of the many good things that cry for attention, focusing instead on the best things, the things that truly make a difference to organizational performance. Right now, that may require putting things aside as leaders determine what is an absolute need and what can wait. Note: This discipline may require reordering your priorities.

Humility precedes glory. Transformational leaders understand it’s not about them. They understand it’s more important to be effective than to be right. They know that we trumps me, and they behave accordingly. They model integrity.

Selfless, transformational leaders always put the mission and the team as top priorities. They sacrifice their own desires and focus on raising-up others. They create trust and they motivate followers to deliver on aggressive goals.

Today, selfless leadership is more important than ever. Co-workers, teams, and families are hurting – they search for answers, they search for support and they search for hope. One of the best things transformational leaders can do is focus outside themselves, focusing outward and looking upward. Sadly, some leaders just don’t get the humility-thing.

Are you a transformational leader? Are you flexible? Are you vaporous?


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