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A Lone Traveller Or A Transformational Leader?

Rudyard Kipling wrote “he travels fastest who travels alone”. The question is, how far can one go on their own?

By Greg Pritchett, Managing Director, Marval

For many organisations that go through transformative changes (including Marval), this transformation is often described as a journey. Very rightly so, since (just like any other long journey) it has its ups and downs, hurdles and obstacles, unpredictable and disruptive events, and external conditions which are beyond the travellers’ control.

Business Transformation starts with change. To me, change is a good thing; it means that we ‘ve identified problems or areas of improvement and decided to address them. Not everyone sees it this way, though; and I’m sure most managers out there will agree with me saying that change can be extremely challenging and stressful not just for employees, but for their line and senior managers as well.

Here’s the manager’s dilemma, then: Am I going to embark on this journey alone (the fastest way), or am I bringing my team aboard (the most sustainable way)? I decided that the best way for us was to bring everyone on board. It wouldn’t be the fastest trip, but it would take us further ahead, closer to our long-term goals; and it would probably be far more exciting with everyone sharing the same vision. Therefore, I disregarded the typical Change Management principles and opted for Transformational Leadership instead.

I have to say, I am a true advocate for change. I believe that great things can happen when people (and enterprises) are open to change. The difference between traditional Change Management and Transformational Leadership is that the latter suggests active involvement of employees at all stages; from identifying areas of improvement to implementing changes. That’s why I chose this path, knowing that it would keep my team engaged with the transformation process from start to end, and actively involved with it.

To be honest, this way is not the fastest, nor the easiest. It requires excellent leadership skills; the ability to share the vision, influence and inspire your team. It requires leading by a great, consistent and immaculate example. It also requires being genuinely supportive and considerate to people’s individual needs, without giving up to any contradictive demands (a hard to achieve balance!). Finally, it requires asking people to be supportive as well, by participating in the process, suggesting amendments, and being accountable of course. Transformational leadership requires a manager to change so they can inspire and lead change.

Not the easiest, but a sustainable way forward. People are the most expensive asset for any organisation; in Marval’s case, they’re also the most valuable one. They are part of our identity, therefore it’s imperative they can also identify themselves as part of our organisation, sharing our culture and being aligned with our strategy and transformation plans.

He travels fastest who travel alone; but how far can they go on their own, and how exciting will their journey be? Not very, I can tell you. Furthermore, who wants to make this journey alone? I certainly don’t. When I hit the road, I need to know that my team is with me - not just following, but planning and defining our joint route with me. Certainly don’t expect me to plan the route, drive the bus and navigate on the same excursion. I realise there’s never a road without a turning; but my team and I will be ready to respond to the challenges and make the journey as exciting as it can be. Because it takes a team to make it all worth it. And efficient, transformational leadership to do it successfully.

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