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5 Qualities of Emerging Transformational Leaders

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” - Bob Proctor

Every generation of leaders has the responsibility of recognizing the emergence of younger leaders and passing on to them what they know. The transition from one era to the next brings new ways of thinking requiring some innovations in leadership development.

Great leaders do not rise to the top of their fields by accident, but by practicing Self-awareness, honest Self-assessment, and a serious commitment to ongoing personal development. A transformational leaders’ greatest contribution to society is recognizing and mentoring talented emerging leaders for the next generation.

I’m going to use the ancient story of King Saul and young David of bible fame. David as an emerging transformational leader tested King Saul’s ability to recognize and mentor David to lead the nation into the next generation.

Influence is More than a Title

Many leaders who hold the title may have little influence, while someone else in their organization is carrying the weight of the influence and holding no title. A good leader will recognize the influencers in their midst and make it a priority to mentor and empower them, something King Saul was afraid to do.

John C. Maxwell says, “The True Measure of Leadership Is Influence Nothing More, Nothing Less"

It is this leadership influence that attracts and inspires people to follow those who have it. I’ve always found the early life of King David to be an excellent example of transformational leadership, and one which certainly affirms the truth of Maxwell’s statement.

The Qualities of Transformational Leaders are Recognized

Long before David became king, the qualities and characteristics of his leadership capabilities were already attested to by those who knew of him, when King Saul inquired about a skillful musician his men recommended David.

Saul’s advisors mention that “David knows how to play the lyre (stringed instrument), he’s a brave man and a warrior, he speaks well and is a fine-looking man, and holds fast to his convictions.” What a ringing endorsement about a teenager to a King! David may have been tending sheep at the time, but he was an emerging leader.

"Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar" - Orrin Woodward

5 Qualities of Emerging Transformational Leaders

Although transformational leaders have many qualities, I will only mention a few here. Let’s continue with those leadership qualities in the character of David, as we see him first emerging on the public stage, on his rendezvous with destiny.

Quality #1 - They are Quick Learners

Great leaders learn from their experience because of their commitment to self-assessment. They can sharpen the skills that have served them well in the past and apply them to a variety of situations in the future. The epic story of David and Goliath was made possible by David’s prior experience in leading and protecting his sheep.

We see the reason for his reputation as a brave man and a warrior in his conversation with King Saul before his confrontation with Goliath. David tells Saul, he’s been keeping his father’s sheep.

When a lion or a bear carried off a sheep from the flock, he went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on him, he seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. David says, he’s “killed both the lion and the bear; this Philistine (Goliath) will be like one of them…”

David had confidence in his convictions and his skills and fully intended to use what he had learned from his prior confrontations with the lion and the bear and adapt that strategy to his confrontation with Goliath.

Quality #2 - They Develop and Use What Works for Them

Transformational leaders may glean from others, but in the end, they will use their own proven methods for success. As the story progresses, King Saul encourages David to try on his armor, David declines, because he’s not used to them and chooses to go with his staff, a few stones and his sling, which are his weapons of choice and served him well as a shepherd.

Quality #3 - They Stand by Their Convictions

Successful leaders are unafraid of conflict and will not compromise their convictions. David was a person of integrity, a man of deep convictions. He was a man of war unafraid when challenged.

These qualities kept him safely anchored through turbulent times throughout his life. A leader must demonstrate that they can be true to their convictions under fire if they are to remain successful throughout their life. David at a young age was able to demonstrate solid leadership qualities and prove them in the heat of battle.

Quality #4 - They Inspire and Empower Others

After David defeats Goliath, his courage in subsequent campaigns wins him a high-ranking command in the military, he gained the respect and approval of the troops and the people. David’s integrity and maturity demonstrate the powerful influence transformational leaders can have on a nation.

David’s character and conduct captured the imagination of a generation. The people loved him, the troops were happy to fight alongside him, and the nation was singing his praises. David saw leadership not as an opportunity for advancement, but as a privilege to serve his country.

Quality #5 - They Shift Cultural Thinking

Saul is now afraid of David and sees him as a threat instead of an asset. Many times, emerging leaders achieve great success and will often have very different ideas than their predecessors. They can be so innovative and creative, that the rapid cultural shift in thinking will unsettle current positional leaders.

Their impact on their environment is so transformational, that it will push other leaders to the limits of their comfort zones and test their tolerance for change. It will also uncover their insecurities, causing them to feel threatened like Saul was with David.

The impact of some leaders is so far-reaching that, it will test the current leaders’ abilities of self-awareness and honest personal assessment. While David is using his skills to serve his country, Saul is using David to serve himself.

Keep the Future in Mind

Keep in mind that David was still a young emerging leader when these events take place, he’s a classic example of a servant leader embodying good character and sound leadership qualities, that would be an asset to any organization today.

How important it is for current leaders to remember that leadership is others-oriented. The fact that there is always a bigger picture in view cannot be overstated. Transformational leaders are at their best when thinking about tomorrow, and how to get everyone there together.

Securing a better future for people and organizations is what it’s all about. It is so important for leaders today to recognize and develop the potential within emerging transformational leaders in their organizations. An inspiring legacy will be indelibly imprinted in the annals of leadership history if they do.

Below is a link to the successor coaching part of our coaching and consulting practice which focuses on developing emerging leaders.

“I do my best to be at my best for anyone seeking to do the same” - JSP

Get in the Habit of Asking Yourself Some Simple Questions

I routinely try to assess my thoughts words and actions daily, weekly, monthly and annually. These questions are a good start, come up with your own as you see fit.

  • How well have I leaned on my strengths to move forward?

  • Did I lean on the strengths of others where I’m weakest?

  • What have I recently learned about myself (positive or negative)?

  • Where do I need immediate development, and do I need a coach?

  • Am I inspiring empowering or instructing any emerging leaders?

*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.***

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