Transformational Leadership Can Prevent Union Organizing

Transformational leadership is a leadership style that can inspire positive change by motivating your team members without micromanaging them! If you're a transformational leader, you trust your well-trained employees to take responsibility for the decisions they make. James MacGregor Burns initially introduced the concept of transformational leadership; he was a leadership expert and presidential biographer. According to Burns, transformational leadership can be seen when "leaders and followers make each other advance to a higher level of morale and motivation." If you aren't yet on board, you've come to the right place - transformational leadership is a management style that opens up doors to creativity, problem-solving, and innovation for the future.

Are you a transformational leader? Indeed says an excellent transformational leader:

  • Provides encouragement
  • Sets clear goals
  • Provides recognition and support
  • Models fairness and integrity
  • Provokes positive emotions in others
  • Inspires people to achieve their goals

Not only can your transformational leadership approach directly influence employee engagement, which in turn reduces employee turnover, it also encourages employees to challenge themselves and exemplify high-performance habits in your organization. If you're working to maintain your direct connection with employees, you should have a tangible positive employee relations strategy in place to develop a culture where unions simply aren't necessary. 

"Transformational leaders don't start by denying the world around them. Instead, they describe a future they'd like to create." – Seth Godin

Transformational Leadership Examples

History has given us plenty of transformational leadership examples to follow, from CEOs and entrepreneurs to media moguls and even presidents. These leaders have developed, and grown companies, inspired the masses, and led revolutions. We may not all know how to define transformational leadership as a discipline, but it's clear they have a massive influence. Ultimately, you want to have this type of leader - and be this type of leader - to maintain positive employee relations and support your company's reputation as an employer of choice.

President Abraham Lincoln embodied the spirit of a transformational leader in more ways than one. Though he had no military experience, he led and motivated the Northerners during the Civil War to fight to preserve the union. One of the central tenets of transformational leadership is inspiring others to achieve great things. Lincoln displayed "discretion in knowing when to order specific action and when to encourage his generals to come to the decision, he wanted them to make." This type of leadership style encourages creativity and open-mindedness to effect change and succeed. Of course, Lincoln's most outstanding achievement is sparking the change that freed enslaved people with the Emancipation Proclamation. Not surprisingly, he faced adversity and challenged a previous way of thinking - but this is precisely what makes him a transformational leader: his vision, moral integrity, and determination sparked significant change for an entire nation.

Nelson Mandela, who was called the "Father of a Nation," was the first black South African president. An anti-apartheid activist, Mandela was a true example of transformational leadership. Mandela inspired "exceptional accomplishments through charisma, inspiration, individualized attention and intellectual stimulation." Mandela's values exemplified transformational leadership and ultimately benefited not only his own country but also after his passing; he continues to impact leaders significantly throughout the world.

Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, is another example of outstanding transformational leadership, championing his "No Rules Rules" management style. Netflix, the now giant streaming-based business that was initially a DVD-rental business that quickly surpassed Blockbuster and began creating original content. The Netflix culture was built on innovation and giving team members the freedom to make decisions that benefit the company. With unlimited vacation, no travel and expense policy, and full decision-making authority, Netflix team members are empowered by this true example of transformational leadership. After implementing HR policies that champion values, freedom, and high-performance, it's no secret why Hastings and the company he built have both been a huge success.

Lastly, a CEO who was listed in recent years as one of Glassdoor's top CEOs, David Ossip, of Ceridian, has a story of transformational leadership that changed the company's future arguably saved it. "My take home after a hard look at Ceridian was that the organization had to reinvent its culture in order to drive proper employee engagement, in turn improving our customer engagement scores and market share," Ossip recalls. Ossip decided to tackle the organization's communication issues and focus on building up employee engagement and culture. He had a clear vision and therefore improved the interaction between employees and leadership, and both employee and customer retention increased while their Glassdoor rating doubled from a 2 to a 4 out of 5.

transformational leadership characteristics

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Transformational Leadership Characteristics

Beyond the obvious, a few key transformational leadership characteristics set this type of leader apart from the rest. Above all, as a transformational leader, you should be willing to roll up your sleeves, take risks, and do anything that you'd ask of the rest of your team. Not only that, you need to be able to challenge your team members and employees on multiple levels and show them the mutual respect you expect. Allowing your team to challenge your thinking is vital to this leadership style. Empower them to suggest solutions and innovate and problem-solve. While there may be a wide array of characteristics that transformational leaders exemplify, the most important is a strong and clear vision, the ability to communicate, and the ability to inspire and motivate team members and challenge them to go above and beyond.

How Transformational Leaders Help Keep You Union-Free

One of the most important tenets of staying union-free is developing an engaged workforce in which each employee feels connected to the organization, shares its vision, and understands the value of the work done. Unions find the easiest pathway into any business is through employees who are disgruntled or disengaged and believe management does not care about them as people. An engaged workforce is much less likely to seek out or even listen to union representatives because employees already believe the employer treats them fairly, cares about their personal and work concerns, and allows opportunities to fulfill their potential.

From this perspective, developing transformational leadership is an important step in keeping an organization union-free. It develops an engaged and inspired workforce that can manage change and believes it can achieve great things. Employees are enthusiastic about the future. Such a workforce is more adaptable to a volatile business environment where change is constant and frequently leads people to feel insecure about their jobs.

If you have developed transformational leaders, your managers and supervisors are naturally keeping your business union-free. The leader stays in close contact with employees, gives them individualized consideration, and understands what employees feel, needs, and wants to do the best job possible. The main component of transformational leadership is effective communication because it requires being able to listen to employee concerns and respond in a way that helps the employee think creatively, see the big picture, and rethink how they do their work, all within the context of working towards common goals.

transformational leadership examples

How Your Leaders Can Exemplify Transformational Leadership

Ultimately, you can directly impact whether or not your organization fosters an environment where transformational leadership styles can flourish. While it's possible, it's unlikely that this leadership style is inherently ingrained into your leaders - and more likely that it's something they can learn and implement in your workplace. It's no secret that transformational leaders can significantly impact both employee engagement and retention, and therefore your bottom line.

Leadership Training - Unions 101

"Unions 101" from A Better Leader can help you keep your leaders connected to the company's vision! In this leadership training lesson we discuss:

  • What exactly unions are
  • How unions work their way into a company and how the collective bargaining process works
  • The telltale signs that can indicate a union campaign is in full effect in your workplace
Leadership Development Training Drift Chat
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About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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