Bennis Transformational Theory – Leadership Theories Series

Use Bennis transformational theory to develop a vision for your organization based on values and beliefs and not management-speak.

Following interviews with a range of leaders Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus identified four strategies that leaders should use when trying to transform their organizations. These are shown below.

  • Strategy 1 Develop a clear and understandable vision for the organization
  • Strategy 2 Act as social architects for the organization by changing the organizational culture
  • Strategy 3 Create trust throughout the organization by making explicit their values and views
  • Strategy 4 Identify their own strengths and weaknesses and encourage their followers to do the same

How to use Bennis transformational theory

Develop a clear vision for your team. Your vision has to be simple, understandable and worthwhile and unless you are running the organization it must be aligned with the organization’s overall aims and objectives.

Decide if the existing organizational culture supports or hinders the achievement of your vision. If it impedes it, and your vision is aligned with the organization’s, then you have every right to replace it with one that reflects the organization’s vision. Embarking on such a change requires careful planning.

Create a bond of trust with your staff by making clear your values, views and position and stand by these even when the going gets tough. Such consistency of behavior will increase the trust that people have in you which will make changing the organizational culture considerably easier.

Leaders using Bennis’ transformational theory know their strengths and weaknesses. They display no false modesty or pride, they emphasize their strengths and use others to compensate for their weakness. You must do the same.

Play to your strengths and surround yourself with good people who are strong in those areas where you are weak. You are not showing weakness if you say ‘l don’t understand’. It’s the idiot who pretends understand and then reveals their ignorance with every word they say. Much like the chief executive I worked for in the public sector who didn’t know the difference between cash and profit.

Question to Ask

  1. Whose support do I need to bring about cultural and organizational change?
  2. Who is likely to try and block cultural and organizational change and how do I deal with them?
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