Charismatic or Instrumental – Which Type of Leader is Best for Transformation?
“….transformation is the reshaping and conversion of an existing order in terms of a pattern
change so that old structures and behaviors are abandoned and replaced by new ones.”
From “Key Aspects of Strategy and Leadership for Business Transformation”
This is a great definition of transformation, especially in business where it’s all about changing structures and behaviors to evolve into a new innovation-driven company.
Many organizations are taking on business transformation with great vigor, but unfortunately, most don’t fully understand the underlying concepts – and therefore, success is limited. And like many other challenges in companies, this issue too starts at the top.
What is business transformation all about?
Make no mistake about it, business transformation is not easy. Change never is, especially when human beings (a.k.a employees) are involved. People resist change, no matter how large and small.
And business transformation is change on a large scale. This kind of evolution typically entails changing the core structure of a company, its business processes, most job roles, and, as the quote above says, behaviors.
So what happens with this kind of change? New technology and new ways of doing things are introduced. People will have different responsibilities and may report to different people. There will be lots to learn and little time to do it. The concept of “this is the way we normally do things” will be replaced by the question “how can we do this better?”
All of which could become quite chaotic and disruptive. And that is why, from this viewpoint, management behavior and leadership are considered to be two of the most important success factors in business transformation.
What kind of leaders can calm the chaos?
There are many different types of leaders, but authors Tuschman and Nadler use the terms “charismatic” and “instrumental” in describing the type of leadership that is needed for business transformation. Charismatic leaders are the kind that provides vision, direction, and energy – all necessary elements of endeavors such as these. A charismatic leader envisions a compelling picture of the future, sets high expectations, and energizes and supports the company during change.
But that kind of leader will only take companies so far. Instrumental leadership is the kind that pays attention to details, such as roles, structures, and rewards. These leaders align senior management and the organization through building teams that can implement transformation, rewarding behaviors that support change, and measuring and monitoring behaviors throughout the transformation.
Should companies focus on one or the other? Or both?
The answer not surprisingly is both. Business transformation needs a focus on the integration of the new processes and the individuals in charge of them – and it requires a shift in behaviors for a great adoption of the business process change.
To learn more, you can read an extensive discussion of business transformation leadership in this article, “Key Aspects of Strategy and Leadership for Business Transformation,” on page 16 of the 360° – the Business Transformation Journal. The article presents an in-depth exploration of charismatic and instrumental leaders, as well as other strategies that are key to successful business transformations.
This publication is produced by the Business Transformation Academy, a thought leadership network devoted to providing cutting-edge insights on innovation and business transformation. For more business transformation articles on the SAP Community Network, please visit the 360° – the Business Transformation Journal library.