The Essence of Transformational, Transcending Leadership

There are four ways to influence others.  But they must be understood in their proper context.  That context helps us understand why, how, and by whom they should be used.

Three Leadership Orientations

There are three basic leadership orientations:

  • Position-Oriented
  • Participation-Oriented
  • Positivity-Oriented

We can understand Position (i.e., when leadership is defined as a position of power) and Participation-Oriented leadership in terms of a ”transactional” continuum, whose midpoint is Telling and whose extremes are anchored by less identification and more identification.


Less Identification Forcing Telling Participating More Identification


  • Transactional strategies for achieving compliance, then, go from Forcing/Coercion to Telling to Participating with others. (Note: we “normally” go from Telling to the left [toward Forcing] instead of to the right [toward Participating with others]).  Strategies between Forcing and Telling include Intimidation and Incentivizing.  Participating with others can be thought of as team building and collaborative strategic decision-making, which involves more credibility, reliability, and intimacy and less self-orientation, including being more emotionally vulnerable and open to others, which fosters identification.
  • Position and Participation-Oriented leadership also requires different skill sets depending on the strategy and place on the continuum: from political to technical to interpersonal.  The Participation-Orientation in particular requires the skill set of a trusted advisor.
  • They are the reflection of a the Normal State (or Mind) of Leadership.
  • The Normal State of Leadership requires certain assumptions about people, ranging from Theory X assumptions to Theory Y assumptions.
  • The underpinnings of this orientation is Normal Change Theory (see table below).


Assumptions, Values, Orientations Traditional Change Theory Advanced Change Theory
Action orientation Planning and proposing solutions Enabling emerging processes
Prime barrier to effectiveness Change target inadequacies Change agent hypocrisy
Prime focus of change Alteration of change target Alteration of change agent
Behavioral determinants External sanctions Internal values
Implicit purpose Personal survival of change agent Realization of collective potential
Nature of learning Controlled analysis Discovery at the edge of chaos
Assumed relationship Influence and control the change target Reverence for the freedom of the change target
Modes of influence Rational persuasion and leverage Attraction and inspiration
Change agent behaviors Conventional Paradoxical
Desired outcomes Alter the change agent Transformation of self and system

Quinn, Spreitzer, Brown: “Changing Others Through Changing Ourselves”, Journal of Management Inquiry, June 2000, 9, 2.


We can understand Positivity-Oriented leadership (i.e., when leadership is defined as being yeast and light and salt) in terms of a “transcending” continuum whose midpoint is Transforming and whose extremes are anchored by less internalization and more internalization.  (Note: Positivity-Orientation leadership is rare and doesn’t last long — we are typically “great” only for a moment.)  We need to grow by increasing intimacy and moving toward greater shared internalization.


Less Internalization Fewer “Moments of Greatness” Transforming More “Moments of Greatness” More Internalization


  • Strategies for changing ourselves and others, then, go from Visioning to Embracing the hypocritical self to Transcending Fear to Embodying the Vision to Let others lead and let the process of living with integrity take us where it may (see below).
  • Positivity-Oriented leadership also requires a different skill sets: that of being an emotionally intelligent, give and take, entrepreneurial, and servant leader.
  • It requires a Fundamental State (or Mind) of Leadership and “Moments of Greatness
  • It also requires a different set of assumptions about people and humanity in relationship to God.  We are part of a mustard seed kingdom:

    He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches’” (Matthew 13:31-32).

  • The underpinnings of this orientation is Advanced Change Theory.
  • The point that can’t be overemphasized is that the source of power in the transformational perspective comes not from a position of power, or a position of amassed power, but from integrity, of as Gandhi said, being the change you want to see in others.  A person of integrity will rarely use the ends to justify the means, which is why they are people of integrity.


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