7 Principles of Transformational Leadership
Create a Mindset of Passion, Innovation, and Growth
Career Press, Wayne, New Jersey, 2017, 256 pages
Book Review published on: June 29, 2018
Hugh Blane, a globally recognized business strategist with nearly thirty years of experience, has authored his first book on transformational leadership. Throughout 7 Principles of Transformational Leadership: Create a Mindset of Passion, Innovation, and Growth, Blane illustrates how leaders can promote human development and access the untapped potential of “upraising” leaders and their subordinates. Relying on tools acquired during his tenure as a consultant and coach for companies such as Costco, Starbucks, and Microsoft, Blane uses numerous real-world examples to assist the reader in gaining clear understanding and increased confidence in leading a multigenerational workforce. The examples are salient to any professional career in the military and civilian sectors.
Blane recounts pivotal moments in his childhood, setting the tone for his personal and professional life. In one story, he recalls hearing the gut-wrenching screams of his mother as a moving crew forced their way into the lavish home to repossess furniture. The context of this example represents the correlation between unfortunate environmental mishaps and their impact on leadership success. Notwithstanding the effects of those childhood events, Blane reports 80 percent of successful leadership is ultimately attributed to mindset rather than talent. Blane provides the following example regarding the impact of having and displaying a negative mindset. A leader who believes work is a grueling, slow slog through enemy territory on his or her belly while bullets are flying overhead will unquestionably yield poor results. Leaders cannot expect to perform at the highest level if their mindset fails to operate on a higher level. Distinguishing the impact of a negative mindset caused Blane to adopt a mentality of resiliency and perseverance, traits he wanted to impart to his subordinates. Blane shows how leaders must foster an environment of growth in their subordinates that, in turn, will promote organizational success. But success cannot reach its peak unless leaders alter their negative mindsets, values, actions, and words to that of growth and positivity. His introductory chapter closes with a transformational leadership assessment and tips for overcoming the negative aspects of leaders who feel overwhelmed.
In the remaining chapters, Blane examines and endorses seven principles that may be useful for the novice leader who is still defining his or her leadership understanding and approach, and for the more experienced leaders fine-tuning a proven skill set. These principles are purpose, promises, projects, persuasion, praising, perseverance, and preparation. When leaders employ these principles as a foundation for their transformational leadership style, they will master the mindset, convert potential, and accelerate performance for themselves and the team as well as the organization.
The first principle attributes subordinate laziness and the mantra “this is how we’ve always done it here” to an organization that is plagued with low performance and lacks purpose. Blane charges that leaders take the necessary steps to reframe their unsuccessful and unproductive pasts and recalibrate the present by discerning what initiatives should be sustained and removed. According to him, when an organization lacks purpose and experience, employees are “driving in the fog with their feet planted on the brakes.” They lack the clarity, curiosity, and courage to make necessary changes to increase productivity. Finally, when subordinates fear changes due to the leader’s inability to invite meaningful input, innovation is stifled, morale decreases, employee turnover rates increase, and mission continues to take a nosedive.
Making beneficial organizational and personal changes is an essential component of transformational leadership. Leaders must investigate the causes of low performance and employ the necessary tactics to overcome their subordinates’ fears associated with change. Adapting Blane’s seven principles will undoubtedly catapult the organization into success.
Blane next compares broken promises in leadership to a decrease in trustworthiness and credibility. A leader who has lost credibility also fails to grasp achieving the persuasion principle. Blane reports every interaction including banal email communications are opportunities to persuade someone to support the organizational vision and mission.
Blane’s 7 Principles of Transformational Leadership serve as a reliable opponent to other literary works on leadership. One notable book is Dr. John Kotter’s Leading Change. Kotter offers eight steps as practical suggestions for making necessary and sustainable changes within organizations. Before making recommendations, both authors explore reasons why and how significant changes fail. Blane accounts the failure of a leader and their subordinates to poor mindset, and Kotter attributes failure to complacency. Both authors acknowledge leaders are not the sole proprietor of change and encourage assistance from all stakeholders through the development of a guiding coalition or incorporating high performers who are also seeking to evolve. Furthermore, Blane compels leaders to set priorities, and Kotter urges establishing a sense of urgency. The final comparison is creating a strategic vision. Transformational leadership entails defining the “what,” articulating the “why,” and partnering with employees on the achieving the “how,” which are all integral to communicating a vision in Kotter’s eight steps.
The above comparison encourages the reader to not rely solely on one avenue for transforming their leadership style. I would recommend 7 Principles of Transformational Leadership as an adjunct. This book provides a relatable blueprint for finding purpose, promoting excellence throughout your organization, eliminating the fear of change amongst peers and subordinates, and invoking meaningful change. The leader must not stop there as they prepare for success. Blane’s seven principles offer to strengthen professional and personal relationships, unravel challenging leadership and organizational concerns, achieve success, and improve efficiency.
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Eric Clarke, U.S. Army, Fort Lee, Virginia