Transformational leadership for economic transformation

Rudo Grace Gwata-Charamba Correspondent 

DURING a two-day induction workshop for senior Government officials, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda and Public Service Commission Deputy Chairperson Ambassador Margaret Muchada outlined high expectations from the officers regarding the processes towards the realisation of Vision 2030.

Basically, the officers were called upon to provide strong leadership as they spearhead the transformation of the country’s economy through the effective implementation of policies and programmes using the 100-day initiatives approach.

It is clear that use of the transactional leadership style, the norm in most organisations, nations and associated with traditional management approaches and ordinary levels of performance, falls far short of the necessary capacity to achieve this challenging goal within an equally challenging environment.

In fact, modern economic transformation necessitates a shift from the traditional notion of responsibility and accountability limited to the correct application of Government regulations and procedures, to the achievement and demonstration of tangible results to a variety of stakeholders.

Accordingly, transformational leadership, which entails the creation of a high-performance workforce through inspiring organisational members to go beyond their task requirements, is likely to be most appropriate for the realisation of Vision 2030.

Transactional leadership entails the exchange of tangible rewards for the work and loyalty of followers.

Consequently, it maintains the status quo and followers are motivated by appealing to their self-interest, while the achievement of objectives is driven by the associated rewards and punishment.

Contrastingly, transformational leadership, through the strength of the vision and personality of the leader, inspires people to achieve unexpected and remarkable positive changes in individuals and organisations.

In the same context, objectives are achieved through highlighting important priorities and encouraging followers to look beyond self-interests towards the common good.

Transformational leadership focuses on long-term solutions, rather than short-term gains, as the leader recognises the usual transactional needs of followers, then proceeds with a desire to arouse and satisfy even higher needs of the same.

Explicitly, in adopting a transformational style, the leader moves beyond day-to-day functions and operates at a higher level, focusing on creating positive change in people and the organisational culture that will bring about the mostly desired innovation and growth within institutions.

There are four dimensions that characterise transformational leadership, namely idealised influence, inspirational motivation, individualised consideration and intellectual stimulation.

Idealised influence denotes the extent to which the leader serves as a role model to followers, typically displaying high ethical and moral values.

Inspirational motivation is the ability of the leader to inspire and motivate followers by articulating a strong and  clear vision, while intellectual stimulation refers to the leader’s ability to expand the potential of followers. Individualised consideration relates to the extent to which the leader attends to the needs of individuals and specific groups of followers for growth and support towards higher performance.

Through these characteristics, transformational leadership promotes high performance and the achievement of extraordinary results as depicted in the figure above.

Topmost among the expectations spelt out to senior officers was the discharging of duties with enhanced focus and utmost diligence within a new and evolving environment characterised by significant challenges and competing demands.

Literature shows that the achievement of such extraordinary objectives is typically limited to organisations that have transformational leadership at the helm.

Transformational leadership ordinarily models the ideal behaviour associated with high performance and equally high morals causing it to earn trust, respect and admiration from followers.

Subsequently, these followers respect its decisions and strategies and also become willing to improve. At the same time, the leadership inspires followers by being optimistic about the ability of followers, believing that they can perform at their best. It also raises consciousness about the significance of the specific outcomes and guides the followers through the related assigned tasks, also consistently encouraging them to identify new and better ways of achieving those outcomes. Such empowers and stimulates followers to exceed ordinary levels of performance.

These characteristics of transformational leadership make it appear as most befitting for ensuring success in the design and implementation of 100-day initiatives within Government ministries.

In the same context, the officers are tasked with ensuring efficiency, transparency and accountability and ethical conduct within the public service.

They are also expected to inculcate a new work ethic, in line with the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra, which again entails a total shift from business as usual.

It can be argued that transformational leadership would be ideal for this task. This is because the style entails raising the awareness of moral standards and also fosters higher moral maturity in followers, notably the use of authentic and dependable methods in business practices. In the process, a climate that encompasses high ethical standards as well as shared values is created.

Another expectation from the officers ensuring the creation and sustenance of a harmonious working environment, guided by a clear understanding of their mandates in relation to those of Government ministers.

In addition, they are tasked with creating and nurturing sound working relationships based on trust.

Explicitly, they are expected to share the same vision as well as complement each other, with the ministers providing policy direction while the senior officers ensure the effective implementation of such policies and related development programmes.

Transformational leadership can greatly facilitate the achievement of this sub-goal because it has the ability to mobilise followers into strong teams, characterised by excellent rapport and high levels of morale, and is also known to be good at conflict resolution.

In addition, the notions of responsibility and accountability are clearly spelt out in the context of transformational leadership and the Results-Based Management (RBM) approach, thus promoting the chances of the assumption of both notions by the relevant groups of stakeholders.

These elements relating to transformational leadership foster cooperation and harmony among all stakeholders, starting with the organisational teams, and also help to ease the management of conflict.

Furthermore, transformational leadership gives followers autonomy over specific jobs, as well as the authority to make decisions once they have been appropriately capacitated. This empowers and motivates the decentralised units towards higher performance and productivity. The leadership style can, therefore, effectively facilitate and support the processes of devolution, another issue that the senior officers are expected to sponsor.

Arguably, transformational leadership, a proven tool for creating positive change and growth, is the leadership style with the greatest potential to facilitate the transformation of the economy towards the realisation of Vision 2030.

There is, therefore, need for the leadership at every level, within Government ministries, to consider the expansion of its capabilities by moving outside of the transactional space into a transformational space as well as make concerted efforts to continue developing the style. Several strategies can be used to develop such leadership style, but he following actions can be taken repeatedly as a starting point:

Craft the vision of your unit or department, with Vision 2030 as a basis, and make it the focal point of the entity

Request for input, as far as possible and practical, from your team to ensure a spread of the vision throughout the unit

Consistently provide an appropriate platform for staff or their representatives to ask questions and obtain clarification

Clearly communicate the importance of every staff in the execution of this vision as well as Vision 2030

Ensure that all activities are practical and aligned with the vision

Understand what it takes to motivate and inspire people to buy in and become part of the vision

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