Head, heart, guts: are you a transformational leader?

Head, heart, guts: are you a transformational leader?

Leadership…many people have different ideas of what leadership means. What qualities come to mind when you think “leader?” What about “servant leader?” They may spark different ideas of what qualities make a leader depending on your organizational background.  There are leaders by title and there are natural leaders who inspire change in others through their head, heart and gut. If we saw more "leaders with titles" exhibit these traits we would see positive shifts in their people and cultures changes that stick.

Whether you’re in a formal leadership position or plan to lead in the future we should embrace being the change and exhibiting the top traits of a transformational leader through our head, heart and guts.

Head: Vision & Accountability

Rational thinking can help the organization plan and prepare for launching a change initiative

Rational thinking can help the organization plan and prepare for launching a change initiative

Set a clear vision

Transformational leaders are not afraid to communicate a vision, take charge and communicate to all levels. These leaders continually improve, communicate and empower people to achieve the organization’s vision.

Inspires action

Inspire ownership and transparency, ensure goals and objectives are clearly defined and understood, and help gain individual alignment. This is the “hoorah” that people want to stand behind. Empower individuals and teams to have autonomy and feel valued.

Encourages learning & improvement

Leaders encourage learning and improvement with their organizations, teams and within themselves and their peers. Be sure to have the experience within the industry, establish communities of excellence for learning and improvement, if the organization is implementing training/certification courses take them alongside the knowledge workers.

Heart: Connect & Coach

Are you a passionate leader?

Rational thinking can help the organization plan and prepare for launching a change initiative

Collaborate and communicate

Being part of a diverse technology leadership team across several locations and integrating products on diverse platforms. Working closely with senior leaders and executives. You speak your mind, you are not afraid of challenge, you know how to contribute to moving a diverse group forward. Is your team aware of the mission, vision and values? Do you involve your team in making decisions that will have effects that touch many?

Emotional intelligence

You have the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those around you. As a natural leader you can understand how these emotions can affect others. Having a strong EI involves great self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.


Mentors share their experience, including peers, executive leaders and the teams. They are not there to teach the team about agile or best practices, but are there to help shape and evolve role, to help improve and advance their existing skills. Often times executives think tenure and titles equate to mentorship and being a transformational leader. This person may not be an internal team member to provide and objective guidance and coach role outside of the team. They have a natural ability to coach, inspire, motivate and be a servant leader

Guts: Courage & Action

The path chosen in this way will likely involve painful decisions, unknown risks and sometimes high levels of uncertainty.

Rational thinking can help the organization plan and prepare for launching a change initiative


Transformational leaders empower other natural leaders within an organization. Leaders come from all levels, not just by title. Titles do not make for leaders. A transformational leader fosters and encourages a lean-agile mentality by encouraging mid-managers (in enterprise organizations), teams and individual to do what makes sense, and to take ownership for outcomes and successes.

Based on values

definition, during transformational change, the old ways of doing things and even the old ways of thinking are no longer viable. There are no clear answers, or there are multiple answers to be weighed.

Transformational leaders lead through the discomfort and unease associated with change because they know it’s right or necessary thing to do. Innovation and experimentation can be risky but with digital disruption is the necessary in the competitive landscape. Transformational leader lead through the change based on value and vision.

Adaptive leadership

Being adaptive is the ability to make hard decisions, take people outside their comfort zones in a positive, inclusive way and assess and address the toughest challenges. What does that mean? Breaking down silos, having the hard conversation and telling the hard truths. Leaders encourage learning and improvement with their organizations, teams and within themselves and their peers. Adaptive leaders not only have experience within the industry, but also encourage communities of excellence for learning and improvement not only for the organization but stand side-by-side with their team.

All too often, business leaders either are disconnected from their heart and gut brains. Their reasoning is that business decisions are best made rationally, with the necessary data and thoughtful analysis. They don’t want to depend on gut instinct; they want emotion out of the equation. Using this approach, there are times when everything works out fine. And, there are times when the result is problematic, or even disastrous.


Although being a transformational leader requires a great deal of effort, it can provide substantial returns. Transformation leaders are able to weather storms and rise to the top even during periods of volatility.

Take away reflection: Do you lean toward leading with your head, heart or guts more? As we learn and grow professionally it is important to have a balance of all three to truly become a transformational leader.

Focus on some of the areas you think you can improve and even ask for feedback from a trusted advisor.

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