Martin Luther King Jr. – I Have a Dream – August 28,1963


When I think of transformational leaders, the first person to come to mind is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I may have been born more than 20 years after he gave his powerful ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech in 1963, but the grainy recording of his tremendous voice is forever ingrained in my memory. I get goosebumps every time I hear these words in my head.

Dr. King was a visionary who connected to people on a deeper level…he connected to their sense of self, to their identity, and ultimately, to their humanity. I am truly in awe of leaders like him, for he inspired a mountain of followers around a stance that challenges our very nature as human beings: peace as a reaction to violence.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction … The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” – MLK, Strength to Love, 1963


What does it mean to be a transformational leader?


Simon Sinek – How Great Leaders Inspire Action

James MacGregor Burns first used the term transformational leadership in 1978 to describe a process in which “leaders and followers help each other to advance to a higher level of morale and motivation.”

Transformational leaders inspire and motivate us to elevate our performance, to go after our dreams and become our best selves. Transformational leaders are authentic; they are visionaries who will challenge their team to take ownership not just for themselves, but for the entire group. Transformational leaders empower those around them.

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Tribal Leadership


TEDTalks – David Logan on Tribal Leadership

Tribal Leadership is one of my favorite books.

I first read it several years ago and came to the realization that I was paralyzing the organization I worked for instead of empowering it. In the book they discuss the Five Stages of tribal culture; it was a really tough pill to swallow when I read about Stage 3 and realized that it was me:

In Stage 3, the dominant culture in half of U.S. workplace tribes, the theme is “I’m great” or, more fully, “I’m great, and you’re not.” In this culture, knowledge is power, and so people hoard it, from client contacts to gossip. People at this stage have to win, and winning is personal. They’ll out-work, think, and maneuver their competitors. The mood that results is a collection of “lone warriors,” wanting help and support and being disappointed that others don’t have their ambition or skill. What holds people at Stage 3 is the “hit” they get from winning, besting others, being the smartest and most successful. Tribal leaders intervene in Stage 3 by identifying people’s individual values and then seeing which cut across the tribe. (Excerpt from Tribal Leadership)

When the book goes into examples about Stage 4 and Stage 5 organizations (like Zappos), I realized I wanted to be a part of that and took action to do so. First, I owned the ugliness of my behavior and accepted that all of my complaints were my own fault. Then, I worked to shift my world paradigm from external to internal control. It took (and still does take) concerted effort on my part, but I consistently focus on how my actions are cause in the matter of every situation in my life. When I started viewing the world differently, I began acting differently as a result. When I took a day off work, I wouldn’t check my email. No one ran the company into the ground. People figured things out on their own and were happier as a result. I only changed my own behavior, but began to see others as more capable, competent and motivated. Eventually, I began to have an impact on the organization and others that was empowering. The sense of fulfillment I received from those interactions far outweighed anything I’d ever accomplished on my own.