Transformational Project Leadership


Transformational Project Leadership

In its pure form, transformational project leadership is about being moral and uplifting, and is concerned with engaging the hearts and minds of the project team members. The transformational project leader exerts a higher level of influence than does a transactional (routine) project leader, thereby motivating people to do more than they are expected to do. A transformational project leader can develop new visions for the project and mobilize team members toward attaining them. The research suggests that transformations take place in such ways as:

  • Raising the project team member’s consciousness about the importance and value of designated rewards and how to achieve them
  • Getting the team to transcend their self-interests for the good of the project
  • Raising people’s focus on minor satisfactions to a quest for self-fulfillment
  • Helping team members adopt a long-range perspective
  • Helping team members understand the need for change
  • Investing all stakeholders with a sense of urgency
  • Committing to greatness.

A recent study of transformational leadership identified seven dimensions of transformational leadership: vision, staff development, supportive leadership, empowerment, innovation thinking, lead by example, and charisma.

If a project is in trouble (behind schedule, over budget) transformational project leaders may use brutal tactics to transform a project team. The positive turnaround artist works closely with team members to restore a healthy psychological climate. Rosabeth Moss Kanter says these project leaders replace secrecy and denial of problems with dialogue, and replace blame and scorn with respect.

Transformational project leaders are always visible and will stand up to be counted rather than hide behind their troops. They show by their attitudes and actions how everyone else should behave. They also make continued efforts to motivate and rally their followers, constantly doing the rounds, listening, soothing and enthusing.

One way the transformational project leader can use to sustain motivation is to use ceremonies, rituals and other cultural symbolism. Have many “mini-celebrations.”  Small changes get big hurrahs, pumping up their significance as indicators of real project progress.

Overall, transformational project leaders focus attention on the mental state of their team members. Perhaps more than other approaches, transformational project leaders are people-oriented and believe that success comes first and last through deep and sustained commitment.

James L. Haner

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