What is Transformational Leadership?

It wasn’t that long ago that a CEO could accurately extrapolate future scenarios drawn from past experiences. Today, experience no longer has the same value because the world is changing so rapidly.  

The very perspective that a leader has the perfect view of everything and drives direction in a top-down manner is equally redundant. Leadership is transitioning at such a rate that there is no roadmap or pool of insight from which to draw. Of course, some may welcome the freedom to craft new business strategies without the need to conform to any previous set of tried and tested rules, others may want some guidelines.

Here are Sam Gordon’s top five suggestions.


Being a leader striving to create something that doesn’t yet exist requires the ability to inspire a team to believe your vision and purpose. This is crucial if sustainable transformation is to take place.

Defining an organisation’s unique ‘raison d’être’ is not an option reserved only for a handful of great leaders. In this highly-competitive digital era, every leader should harness the opportunity to step up and lead with purpose and vision.

This means identifying and shedding any outdated notions or ‘noise’ likely to hold a company back and being prepared to back your mission and ability to succeed wholeheartedly.


Once the core organisational purpose has been defined, it is those leaders who engage the brightest minds and empower them with the tools and autonomy they need to work towards that vision who will thrive.

This sets in motion a system that experiments and innovates on a continuous basis. It is precisely this kind of agility that offers CEOs the best opportunity to define the future based on the most current data rather than outdated experience, particularly when balanced with rigorous measurement of performance and individual accountability.

This is the mainstream culture in high growth digital and technology businesses but, in our view, it will become increasingly apposite in all businesses.


As the primary change agents in the business, CEOs need to forge alignment at all levels of their organisation, championing new models of working that embody speed and agility, and anchoring transformation through bold and effective decisions.

As the primary change agents in the business, CEOs need to forge alignment at all levels of their organisation, championing new models of working that embody speed and agility, and anchoring transformation through bold and effective decisions.

This means having a clear focus on where the changes are coming from and the required combination of capabilities and skills needed to address these.

Take automation, which in itself may or may not lead to business-model change. It depends on how a CEO approaches this. Automation can mean taking a process and doing it faster, better, and cheaper. Or it can fundamentally change what a business offers, requiring a new business model and profoundly disrupting an organisation or even an industry in the process.


Research from Harvard Business Review and MIT found that in a study with 1,000 CEOs, asked about their capabilities, 70% believe they do not possess the right skills or operating structure to adapt.

Many of today’s CEOs are digital immigrants and with every organisation heavily investing in digital technologies, digital itself is no longer the differentiator. CEOs across every industry need to find new ways of setting themselves apart, and this starts with closing the divide between themselves and their often digital native workforce.

As more people get to grips with technology and the tools of the internet, the best and brightest digital leaders will rise up with the knowledge they acquire. There will always be more to learn to cement the need for continuous professional development.

Likewise, there never has been a better time to source digital leaders across different sectors to usher in new thinking and working models – learning from other industries is a great way to innovate in your own to cement.


As Stephen Covey once said “Strength lies in differences, not similarities” and it is now a well-documented fact that diversity positively impacts an organisation’s bottom line.

Certainly, any self-aware leadership team will want to balance itself out skills-wise and hire people who bridge their skills gap. Defining those competencies requires focusing on the roles that involve important nuances, such as problem-solving, empathy and emotional intelligence.

These skills and behaviours are key as leaders now need to synthesise diverse thinking and viewpoints, mesh creative thinking with tough decision making and embrace and enact change as a constant.

Diversity needs to go beyond just gender too. According to Fast Company, organisations with above-average gender diversity outperform companies with below-average diversity by 46% to 58%. Having the full spectrum of human demographic differences means increased representation of BAME, different socio-economic backgrounds, age and industry experience all of which combine to create higher-performing teams.

Only by ensuring diversity and inclusion are a business KPI will leaders be able to plug the different gaps in their own skill-set.

Experience drawn from traditional methodologies is no longer relevant, neither is aBusiness as Usual’ approach. Instead CEOs have the tools and potential to transform the way leadership drives innovation at their fingertips. Harnessing the multiple opportunities they can tap into means embracing this era where we gear up for roles that don’t yet exist but will soon be created, and for challenges yet to emerge.

About Sam Gordon

Sam Gordon is the Co-founder of executive search firm Gordon & Eden. He has over 20 years of experience sourcing world-class digital and technology talent for some of the world’s most innovative companies, such as Facebook, Ovo, Stripe and Monzo. Gordon is an active angel investor and mentor to tech founders.

Website: https://www.gordoneden.co.uk

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