What transformational leaders do differently

CIOs break down the key characteristics and qualities of transformational leadership - consider how you can embrace these attributes
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signs of a great digital transformation leader

Transformational leaders can catalyze the kind of change organizations need now. They have a bold vision for the future and a plan for empowering others to make that vision real.

What sets a transformational leader apart? We recently asked IT leaders who won the 2022 South Florida CIO of the Year ORBIE Awards to define transformational leadership. Here’s what they had to say.

Promotes shared understanding and resilience

Tricia Ferreira

Tricia Ferreira, SVP, Technology Product Management, World Fuel Services Corporation: Transformational leadership is a perpetual journey of understanding, inspiring, and courageously enabling new trajectories toward seemingly impossible goals. It requires transparency to ensure stakeholders understand more than where an organization is heading – but also the why, why now, and what is in it for them.

This level of shared understanding creates a compelling need and broad buy-in throughout the organization. It fuels a high-performance culture fit for a marathon that dynamically improves outcomes while staying on course. Transformational leadership promotes resilience by multiplying diverse, difference-making talent to expeditiously implement advantageous adjustments and overcome obstacles that could affect the realization of goals.

[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]

Through the perspective of information systems, transformational leadership aligns business, organizational, and information strategies. This triad, when effectively aligned, uniquely elevates business growth and accelerates progress – bringing innovation to life through technology. A transformational leader can initiate and amplify vision, energy, and perseverance across an enterprise.

Creates an environment in which people feel heard and seen

Ann Dozier

Ann Dozier, SVP & CIO, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Inc.: Transformational leaders have the courage to lead, the willingness to do the right thing, the ability to inspire others to engage, and create an environment that empowers. A transformational leader actively listens and establishes trust with their team, encourages diversity of thought, and creates an environment where the team feels they “belong” and are comfortable sharing ideas without judgment.

Effective change cannot happen without everyone working together against a common purpose, recognizing that a team is more important than any individual, and always putting the company first when making decisions. A leader must create an environment where team members feel seen, heard, and fully understand the company and department strategy and goals.

As a multi-generational, family-owned business, Southern Glazer’s culture has an entrepreneurial spirit that challenges team members to think beyond the here and now, focusing on how we can do something better than before. Technology is business, and it is the responsibility of the IT team to bring innovative ideas that drive transformational change, to digitally transform across all company functions to create the right employee and business partner experience while also delivering operational efficiency and effectiveness.

Delivers meaningful results

Jeffrey Sturman

Jeffrey Sturman, SVP & CDO, Memorial Healthcare System: I think transformational leaders are all about delivering results. Change is paramount to success, and we can’t be stagnant in how we approach an ever-evolving landscape of healthcare. Digital tools can make significant improvements to the way in which we manage patient populations and new care delivery processes; it is through this digital transformation that we will shape our future healthcare industry. Transformational leaders accept that this change is a part of making us better – meeting consumers where they want to be met, making healthcare easier to navigate, helping to be more efficient in how we address our business – and are willing to take risks along the way.

[ Learn how CIOs are speeding toward goals while preventing employee burnout in this report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services: Maintaining Momentum on Digital Transformation. ]

Carla Rudder is a community manager and program manager for The Enterprisers Project. She enjoys bringing new authors into the community and helping them craft articles that showcase their voice and deliver novel, actionable insights for readers.  

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