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Become the ‘Yoda’ of Your Market: 4 Ways Transformational Leadership Gives You a Competitive Advantage

 by Dr. James Cummings

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I was recently having a discussion with a colleague about leadership and growing my business.  When I used the phrase, “transformational leadership” I was asked, “what’s that?”  With the field of leadership emerging and gaining increasing public awareness, most business owners and leaders have at least heard of this subject.  However, few have an understanding of the fact that there are sub-types of leadership.

Progressive business owners stay on top of the subject of leadership because they know that information is power.  Information gives them a competitive advantage.  How?  By using science to inform your practices as a business owner, you are putting yourself ahead of other owners who do not consume material that positively influences the interactions you have with people – employees and customers alike. By knowing what to do that builds your business, you will receive tangible and intangible rewards for the investment you make in yourself through learning.

It is important for those in positions of leadership to understand that there is a significant distinction to be made between not only among different types of leadership, but also between leadership and management.  Management is something done TO people or projects; leadership is something done WITH people.  Management is quickly becoming a thing of the past.  As the workforce becomes increasing diverse, the idea is to hire quality people who come to the project or team ready and able to contribute.  Leadership is the new trend – the trend that requires that the owner or leader take a different point of view to maximize the potential of their team.  One way to do this is to tap into a specific leadership model.  Please allow me to introduce you to Transformational Leadership.

Transformational Leadership (TFL) is a new model of leadership.  It is in direct contrast to the model that prevailed for decades before – known as Transactional Leadership (TAL).  The key difference between the two is in the philosophy and action of the leader.  In TFL, the philosophy is, “let me stimulate, inspire, and empower you – when aligned with our objectives, we will go far together.”  In TAL, the philosophy of the owner is “do this for me in exchange for this reward.”  The key is in the exchange of one thing for another.

It’s not hard to see that implementing the philosophies of TFL require the owner of the business to be open minded, flexible, and able to give nurturance and support.  There is considerable debate in the field of leadership studies about whether gender of the leader makes a person a better leader.  What do you think?  Can men be as nurturing and caring as women?

There are 4 specific things transformational leaders do.  See if you can find yourself in these areas:

  1. Influence: this means the leader serves as a role model to others.  What do you do that inspires others?  What do those who follow you say about your actions?
  2. Motivation: this person articulates a vision for the future – one that inspires others to join in the efforts.  This is accomplished by providing meaning and challenge to the work done.  Do you provide meaning and challenge to the work of your staff?
  3. Stimulation: this is for the intellectual aspects of the team.  This is most often done by challenging assumptions, asking paradigm-shifting questions, and actively seeking out input from those who may offer a unique perspective.  New approaches are encouraged!
  4. Consideration: here is where the rubber meets the road.  This is all about knowing each member of your team; knowing who has kids, who is married, what their spouses/partners do for a living, and several things about their experiences, believes, and quirks.  Do you know 5 things about each member of the team that have nothing to do with their lives at work?

In and of itself, leadership is a fascinating topic.  But work in the area of TFL is even more interesting, because it has been the subject of TONS of research.  An outcome of this research is the development of a standardized assessment instrument that can be used to measure the degrees of the qualities that one possesses.

Leadership is a rapidly growing and evolving area that will impact all business owners, big and small.  Management is now for projects, while leadership is about working with the strengths and existing resources people bring to your business.  The sooner these concepts are consumed, understood, and applied, the sooner the intangible benefits that already exist on your team(s) will be experienced!

To borrow a phrase from Yoda and the Star Wars saga, “lead, or lead not … there is no try.”  With information like this, you can confidently lead because you have a road map to success!

For additional reading on this topic, search “Transformational Leadership” on  My search produced over 30 books on this subject!    This work was adapted from Transformational Leadership (2006) by Beranard M. Bass and Ronald E. Riggio.

At Tap the Potential, it is my intention to use the social sciences to help solve business challenges. When business owners are talking and thinking about topics like leadership, staff development, and strategy, work becomes less stressful and more rewarding for everyone.

 Dr. James Cummings is a Business Strategist at Tap the Potential  LLC, America’s Leading Rural Business Growers. James  specializes in applying the best practices from the social sciences to  solving complex rural business challenges.

James holds a Bachelors in Social Work from the University of  Wyoming and earned his Doctorate of Psychology in Organizational Leadership & Development from the University of the Rockies.

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