I have worked with many different leaders throughout my career both in the military and in the corporate world. There were leaders who inspired me to be better and leaders who made me want to run for the hills. I have had managers who thought they were leaders and leaders who were never in a management position. There is only one time in my life though where I had the pleasure of working for a true Transformational Leader. Much as the name implies, a transformational leader transforms people by being “concerned with emotions, values, ethics, standards, and long-term goals” (Northouse, 2016, p. 161). This leader ultimately became a mentor to me as he helped me navigate my transition from military to civilian life, and took a vested interest in my future. He was a leader who fit the transformational leader definition to a “T”.
When I look at the four Transformational Leadership factors attributed to Bass’ (1985) model, which are idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (Northouse, 2016, p. 167), my mentor excelled at all. Idealized influence, also known as charisma, refers to a leader who can create a vision and a sense of mission for their followers (Northouse, 2016, p. 167). While I was transitioning from the military, I honestly felt somewhat apprehensive about this change and did not have a mission, or even a vision, for my future. Everything that I was good at revolved around being in the military and I did not understand how that would translate to the corporate world. My mentor worked with me for months to understand who I truly was and what I really wanted before he even began to recommend new careers for me to possibly pursue. He understood that in order to help me, he needed to understand what motivated me, and this took a lot of time.
Inspirational motivation refers to the extent of which a leader can inspire a follower(s) to achieve their best through motivation (Northouse, 2016, p. 169). When my mentor and I discussed what I wanted to do and my expectations for my future, he did not let me settle for anything but the best. He helped me create goals for myself that would lead to a successful transition and ensured that I was always “raising the bar”.
Intellectual stimulation refers to a style of leadership that “stimulates followers to be creative and innovative and to challenge their own beliefs and values” (Northouse, 2016, p. 167). Much as I stated above, my mentor did not let me fall in-line with the “status quo” but rather forced me to think outside the box and look at the world in a different way. When I was contemplating my fit in the civilian world, he would say things to me like “the world is your oyster, you decide when to take the pearl”. This creativity and innovation in regards to my own career path really helped me understand what I wanted and allowed me to ensure I was never settling for anything other than the perfect fit.
Lastly, individualized consideration refers to leaders who provide a supportive climate by listening to their followers and understanding their individual needs (Northouse, 2016, p. 167). Although my leader had 30+ years in the corporate world and was the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation with massive amounts of experience, the first thing he did was allow me to talk and lay my own foundation for where I wanted our relationship to go. He allowed me to mold our interaction in a manner that worked well for me and refused to inject his input unless it was going to stimulate my own thoughts.
Now that I understand what a transformational leader really is, it is apparent to me that my mentor is the first true transformational leader that I have ever met. His ability to transform my own thoughts, emotions, and beliefs about myself was unbelievable. He took what I had inside me and found a way to lead me to my own conclusions and create my own future. He never once demanded anything of me and made it known from our first conversation that all he truly cared about was my future and my needs. I am forever thankful that I had someone like him in my life and he is a role model for me to try and emulate my own style.
Northouse, Peter G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice (7th Ed.). SAGE Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA. Print.