Be a transformational leader

Written by Laurie Hillis

Hi, I’m Laurie Hillis, I love what I do: the learning, the process, and above all, seeing how my clients grow as leaders.


April 18, 2023

Image © by anyaberkut via

The simple things that make anyone’s leadership … transformational

Transformational. That word has weight. It’s not heavy in a drag-me-down kind of way. But it’s big when you stop to think about it.

Leadership is used so often that its meaning wanes. I bet if I counted the number of times I say it in a day, it would number in the dozens.

So, I’m taking a minute to pause and consider what these words truly mean. Put them together and it’s a powerhouse phrase: transformational leadership. But what does it mean?

I found the most beautiful perspective by a brilliant man that answers that question.

“People are remarkably responsive to the way in which they are treated, and respond in kind. Faced with wonderful leadership, people will aspire to superior performance. Given the behaviours we have demonstrated to inspire growth in others – perhaps the most important message to aspiring leaders is actually quite simply, ‘you can do it’.”

Sit with those words for a minute. Read it again if you want to. Then, if you’re inclined, come back and lend me your ears (or eyes in this case).

Does it feel too big, too weighty, to believe anyone can have a transformational affect on others? Is it really that simple?

Well, like everything in life, the answer to that is about perspective and intention.

Dr. Julian Barling is one of the most captivating people I have come across in recent years. Distinguished University Professor and Borden Chair of Leadership at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, he looks every bit the part. It is the friendliness in his face that struck me first, then his Zimbabwean accent drew me in to intently listen to every word he said.
And what he said was deeply powerful.

Dr. Barling uses impactful real-life stories to impress upon his listener how anyone can be a leader who people want to follow. He holds that a leader is someone who earns trust and commitment by recognizing others’ value, regardless of their position or level.

For Dr. Barling (and me), it’s the little things that make a transformational leader: 

  • Show gratitude, compassion, appreciation and recognition
  • Listen
  • Say thank you
  • Use names in conversations and emails

None of this takes much time – it’s all very simple – but all of it serves as the glue of a lasting relationship, making others want to be led by you. Note the emphasis on ‘want.’

I thought long and hard about this. Many followers follow their leader – that’s how organizational hierarchy works – but how many truly want to? And can anyone be a leader others want to follow? Anyone? I, for one, can think of a few individuals for whom this couldn’t possibly be true. But when I think about the majority of people in today’s society and the simple things he suggests are transformational, I believe Dr. Barling could be right.

What a noble role to strive to play in others’ lives – to be transformational!

Turning inward, I strive to make a positive impact on others every day. Some days I fail, but I have an intention to live up to this goal and, most of the time, I do a pretty good job.

As I write this, my eyes leave the computer screen and settle on a sticky note on my computer screen that says: “What can I do today to make someone else’s life better?”

As I read this question, I realize that I haven’t paid attention to that sticky note in a few weeks. It’s become part of the decor that I’ve ignored. I’ve talked before about my big goal for 2023 being to remain intentional, present, in the moment. Well, today is when I need to reset my intention to make someone’s life better every single day. 

  • How does the idea of transformational leadership sit with you? 
  • Are you someone who others want to follow?
  • How will you make someone feel valued and appreciated?
  • What will you do today to make someone’s life better?
  • What do you need to notice and reset?

For more brilliance from Dr. Julian Barling, listen to his webinar on Lessons in Leadership from Nelson Mandela. You will come away inspired. I guarantee it.

Let’s connect:

If you want to know more about Megatrain and how we can work together, drop me a line:

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