Transformational Leadership For Entrepreneurs

by Alex Charfen
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It's a topic that's been debated as long as people have needed leaders. Most of these debates revolve around the same questions…

What are the main characteristics a leader should possess? Where does the ability to lead come from? Are people born with it, or is it learned?

As a consultant to the Fortune 500, global 100, self-made billionaires, and top entrepreneurs for more than 20 years, I saw all kinds of leaders. 

I saw ones that were feared, some were disconnected, and others that were beloved and revered. Many leaders I worked with were able to get the job done, but only a select few worked in their strengths, improved their team, and expanded a business.

So what was the biggest difference between those who survived and those who thrived?

They each had fundamentally different views of what it meant to lead – I'll get to that in a second.

For Entrepreneurial Personality Types (EPTs) looking to build a movement, leadership is a vital trait. But becoming the leader your company needs can be complicated. Here's what I often tell entrepreneurs – If you don't have the company you want, you haven't become the person who can run it yet.

A lot of that comes down to leadership. There are endless essays, articles, books, and pieces of training on how to become a better leader. But the majority of them fail to consider the role of the entrepreneur. And none of them view leadership through the lens of the EPT.

As entrepreneurs, leadership is more complicated than assigning tasks and micromanaging employees. We need our team to cover our blind spots, provide us with protection and support, and lower pressure and noise around us so that we can do what we do best. 

So, how do we inspire that kind of loyalty and dedication within our team while moving our companies forward?

We have to evolve from transactional leaders into transformational leaders.

How Entrepreneurs Have Been Trained to Fail As Leaders

Many entrepreneurs I meet view leadership in a transactional sense, meaning they see it from a managerial perspective. They think it's their job to monitor and manage their “subordinates.” When they assign work to a subordinate, the leader considers them to be solely responsible for the job's completion, whether or not they have the resources or ability to get it done. 

If things go wrong, the subordinate is disciplined. If things go right, they get a pat on the back. Although this approach can be somewhat effective, it only forces team members to maintain the status quo – not go beyond it. This ultimately limits the team's capabilities because it ignores the personal growth of team members.

Another problem with this approach is that it becomes overwhelming. Transactional leaders tend to place too many responsibilities on themselves because they're constantly on the lookout for what their team is accomplishing or doing wrong. They are often walking around to team member's desks throughout the day for “check-ins.” 

This often leads transactional leaders to become distant. It's hard for them to develop a good relationship with their team because they're playing the role of “just another authority figure.” Every discussion they have tends to become a one-way conversation like – “Here's what you need to do and how I need you to do it for me.” When that happens, team members start to dread interactions with their leaders, and they have less of a desire to work hard for them.

This is how the leader becomes the bad guy.

What is Transformational Leadership?

Transformational leaders are different. These are the people who are followed – not out of fear – but out of respect. They emphasize the personal development of their team. They consistently ask what they can do for the people around them, rather than the reverse. Most importantly, they trust their team to own important parts of the business to share in both responsibility and the credit for success. 

This approach allows the leader to work in their strengths, and it gives them the ability to stay present and in the moment when coaching or counseling the people around them.

It also provides team members with a sense of purpose. They begin to feel like they play an essential part in the success of the company and willfully take personal ownership of outcomes. 

They're motivated to do their best because they know it will benefit everyone involved and they don't want to let the team or leader down.

Transformational leaders are also highly transparent. When they need support, they're quick to communicate this to the team so that everyone can share responsibility for the outcome. This means that the conversations they have with their team members are two-way dialogues – “Here's what I need to have done. How do we go about doing it?”

This pivot ensures leaders aren't seen as oppressive, and that they don't become “just another authority figure.” Also, it shows their teams a commitment to making sure they have the resources to accomplish what they need to get done.

The transformational leaders I've encountered have all understood that by growing the people around them, they could create results that wouldn't have been possible on their own. With their teams, they truly became greater than the sum of their parts.

If you want help stepping into transformational leadership so you can become the leader your team needs you to be, reach out to us at

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