What is Transformational Leadership?

Transformational leadership is the ability to metabolize constant change in the outside world into concrete value inside our organizations and communities. We need to metabolize changes in the world outside us into value-creating and transformational ideas and innovations in the organizations and systems we’re a part of. These transformations ensure that our enterprises, our employees, and the ecosystems we are part of thrive into the future—no matter what challenges we face.

We use the word metabolise very specifically. Metabolization is the process of by which the cells in our bodies take in nutrients and resources from the outside world in the form of food and convert them into the energy and the micronutrients within them into value in our body. This is what our billions of cells are doing, day in, day out, and it’s the same process for transformational leadership.

The key to transformational leadership is realizing that, in order to metabolize constant change into concrete value, we have to be ready to change our own beliefs and behaviors. We must be prepared to alter our own thoughts, our own assumptions, our own habits, our own reactions, our own activities, and our own emotions inside us: otherwise we will think and act the same whilst telling everyone else to change. Effectively, transformational leadership is about learning how to transform our world from the inside out; one transformation within us at a time.

What prevents leaders from creating real transformational impact is not processes and strategy but their own outdated thoughts and beliefs about what’s right and wrong and about what’s good and what’s not; and their own outdated behavior patterns and habits that sabotage their effectiveness as leaders rather than serve them.

Locking in the old habits and beliefs are always old emotions. By transforming our emotions through advancing our interoceptive-affective wisdom we then change how we think, developing further cognitive complexity. Then we come up with the insights, intuitions, and innovations our system/community/enterprise needs to transform and thrive into the future.

A great example of transformational leadership in a place of crucial importance to an entire nation is that of Nelson Mandela. Now Mandela, like all of us, had many failures and foibles, but he provides an amazing example of someone whose transformation of himself enabled him to enact the transformation of his country.

As a young man, Mandela was understandably angry at and frustrated by the racist Apartheid system in South Africa. He attempted to solve this problem through angry activism and violent protest, and as a result he was incarcerated, not just for his political believes, but because of his actions as part of a violent resistance movement.

But while in prison, a fellow inmate reportedly smuggled in a book by the stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. This book, Meditations, is about how we shift our consciousness, and in it is a passage that Mandela said was very influential to him. It says: “A real person doesn’t give way to anger and discontent, and such a person has strength, courage, and endurance—unlike the angry and complaining. The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.”

Mandela reflected on this for many years. Soon after he was released from prison, many of his followers wanted him to approve of angry protest and violence against the Apartheid state. But Mandela refused, saying, “There is only one way forward, and that is peace. I know that is not what you want to hear, but there is no other way.”

Long after his release, and after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he stated that, “If I had not been in prison, I would not have been able to achieve that most difficult task in life: changing yourself”. Mandela emphatically claimed that the transformation of his own consciousness, of his own feelings, thoughts and behaviours, directly influenced his ability to transform his country as a leader. He mastered himself in order to transform his system.

What was so special about what Mandela did? He transformed himself thus allowing his party and his “enemies” to transform the country. The White minority government were looking for a way out of Apartheid when Mandela was released. They themselves had realised it was out of date and failing. Mandela as a peaceful activist and a transformational leader encouraged his people to act with peace and not rage. He appeared on national television at one point and held FW de Klerk’s hand, physically modeling peace and connection to his supporters. The transformation of this one man created exponential value in the country.

Nelson Mandela is a very real example of how transforming ourselves can enable us to transform our systems. If he had come out of prison with his old feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours, he would not have been able to create that change. Instead, although South Africa still has many problems, it has transitioned from minority White rule. It has transformed the violence of Apartheid into a multicultural, multiracial state, and this transformation took place with incredibly low levels of violence, murder and mayhem considering its history.

So how do we become transformational leaders? 

You can use Bio-Transformation Theory®; which fuses the very latest brain science with profound wisdom and practical psychology. BTT (also called The Switch On Way) consists of a world-class, 6-phase innovation process; an extensive leadership curriculum (covering conscious, purposeful, creative, inspirational, collaborative and systemic leadership); 90+ proven and printable transformation tools; and 40+ brain-based transformation practices that have inspired over 5 million people worldwide to change their hearts, minds and habits as fast as possible

Join us on an open program, or invite us into your community/enterprise/system, to lead transformation together.

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