26 March 2021

Transformational Leadership Begins with You

Change is the new constant and change begins with you. As I often say, “transformation is not for the faint of heart,” but the ability to embrace change and transform organizations is key to a successful career. No matter where you are in your career, you have a role to play in the transformation of your company. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak at the Women in Automotive conferences about how transformational leadership begins with each individual understanding their role in driving change.

When you think about how to enact change in your organization, it’s important to realize the role you can play relative to where you are in your career. I like to think about it in relation to a career framework with three key phases; early in career, the formative years and the optimization period.

1. Early in Career

When I first started my career, I can remember trying to understand how the organization functioned – I was a sponge absorbing different experiences. Looking back, I realize I had a unique perspective because I was working for two different managers. I was able to observe how each manager led and could find the best qualities that I then could apply to my own leadership. When you’re early in your career, it’s not easy to affect organization-wide change, but you can champion change initiatives and bring new ideas to leadership. My advice? Look at your leaders, consider the positive and negative behavior, and use their examples to inform your growth.

2. Formative Years

The “formative years” are the period in your career when you are an integral part of change initiatives. You will likely play a variety of roles, from being a participant to leading change. This is the time to test what you’ve seen, take on projects and start to gain a true sense of who you are as a leader and where your strengths lie in enacting change. Throughout this period, it’s essential to have a seasoned mentor who can coach you through difficult change initiatives while you hone in on your capabilities.

3. Optimization Period

When you rise through the ranks and find yourself in senior leadership roles, employees look to you to drive change and communicate the strategy of the organization. Your responsibility is to set expectations and clearly define what success is. This is the time you leverage everything you’ve learned to move, shift and mold the organization to drive change and create transformation.

At every point in your career, you can have a significant impact on your company, but the ability to create change isn’t limited to your role in your organization. Everyone also has the ability to impact the industry through their collaboration with others. Women in Automotive is a great example of a “new in career” organization that is going to drive major change in the industry. And as we know, the auto industry is going to experience significant changes in the next 10-15 years – we need everyone to play a part in creating positive change. Knowing what phase you are in and maximizing your experiences will help drive your career, and the industry, forward.