Much has been written on the topic of leadership and leadership style. One approach in recent years has been to promote a Transformational style over a Transactional style and it is when organisations are experiencing rapid change that Transformational Leaders play a vital role in “transforming” and revitalising organisations particularly as they experience growth in organisations and seek to capitalise on new opportunities.

The role of the Transformational Leader is to help the organisation overcome resistance to change and we can identify four stages of transition in making that change. These are:

Stage 1: Shock

Employees may experience impending change as a threat. They shut down thinking and as many systems as possible (just as in physiological shock). What they need are metaphorical “warm blankets and rest” and time to recover. They need emotional
support, lots of information which they need time to process and the opportunity to get together with others. Typically their productivity is low. They need help and support to think and do not remember things.
What should the Transformational Leader do:

Help people to look for common ground in shock, to build support networks and
give information again and again. Leaders should give visible support and provide and demonstrate safety with clear organisational expectations, reward systems,
support systems and resources made available to make the transition.

Stage 2: Defensive retreat

Employees seek to hold on to the past attempting to maintain old rituals, feeling a great deal of anger and they have a refusal to let go of the past. People and organisations can get stuck here or recycle back to Stage 1 as each element of change is introduced.

What should the Transformational Leader do:

Help people identify what they are holding on to, and then how to maintain it in the new situation or how to let it go. Highlight and promote the areas of stability as things that are not changing. Give information continually and consistently and provide safety in response to discomfort with risk taking.

Stage 3: Acknowledgement

This stage may be characterised by a demonstration of sadness and a sense of grief over loss. Letting go and starting to understand the value of what is coming and looking for ways to make it work by considering the pros and cons. Taking the opportunity to
explore new ways to look at things and to do things. This stage can lead to high energy if managed well.

What should the Transformational Leader do?

They need to involve people in exploring options and planning through the use of a careful
decision making process as a structure/support. Encourage and support risk taking by pointing out ways that the organisation will support it. Emphasise that everyone is learning.
Stage 4: Adaptation and Change

What is coming has arrived! Being ready to encourage and establish new routines and to help others is what the Leader needs to do now. Risk taking comes into full bloom at this stage relative to changing methods, products or whatever else is called for.

What should the Transformational Leader do:

Implement plans. Encourage and support risk taking using the supports and structures developed in Stage 3. Establish feedback loops so that information travels in all directions, new learning occurs and mid course corrections can be made when necessary.

The Four Stages of Transition in Change