Leaders: True Transformation Has to Start at the Top


There is an undeniable trend of transformation going on in corporations around the globe. 

Economic crisis, bad politics, global climate changes, survival and disruptive technology are just a few reasons behind the trend. 

Reinventing Your Leaders

Many companies, large and small have to come up with creative ways to reinvent themselves.

This requires change:

Tops down, Bottoms up, Sideways change!

Many companies not only have a focus on their product, sales approach or services reinvention, but reinvention of their leaders.  demand for newer, softer approaches to leading such as Collaboration, Emotional Intelligence, and Change Leadership are prevalent.

The Softer Side of Success

Many authors, consultants, experts are reaping the benefit of the trend.

But at the heart of the change isn’t a consultant, a nifty new diagram or model, it’s the leader himself.

I have been leading cross-company transformation efforts for most of my career whether at the micro-level of a single project or service, or at the corporate level.

From my experience, introducing the softer elements of business can be the smartest thing to do to really reach the bottom line. You can easily get an executive sponsor to champion the effort if it pertains to a new way of thinking of a project or how they do business.

Where the transformation gets dicey is when it requires personal change from those at the top, not just in voice but in actions. 

The Transformation Script

So here is the rundown of how it goes…

  • An executive staff meeting will yield a consensus of nods that “yes, the company has to change.”
  • They will debate for hours on what has to change, who has to change and how they are going to go about the change.
  • The Leader is willing to put his staff through the new academy or intensive training program and easily pays for it, allows direct reports to take the time to go through a program and even does a corporate video to rally the troops.

Now comes the real test of what does that leader have to change in himself.  It goes beyond the head nod and staff development but becomes personal development.

They get in the trap of believing they are already role modeling the new way.

Well if they were living the new way, the rest of the organization would have already followed the leader to the new normal.

Starting at the Top

For a real transformation to happen, it has to steep itself in the new culture and it has to start at the top.  The leader can’t just identify the need for change.

To be effective, he has to:

  • Lead it
  • Champion it
  • Invest time in it personally
  • Embrace it
  • Sponsor it
  • Mentor others
  • Coach them
  • Guide them

He has to walk the talk and be able to show visible change within himself for others to follow.  He has to course correct as the environment changes or the company strays from purpose.  Where I’ve seen great programs falter is at that critical point when a leader says this:

“What do you mean I have to change?” 

Efforts that don’t have this important recipe of top leader adoption die on the vine while the next new shiny object sucks up more time, energy, money and resources waiting for the next big thing to guide them on the path of transformation.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Cheryl Dilley 
is a Program Director at Intel Corporation
She is a transformation leader, coach, and program strategist
Email | LinkedIn WebFacebook

Image Sources: ashpfoundation.org

3 responses to “Leaders: True Transformation Has to Start at the Top

  1. I couldn’t agree more! It is easy to say you support change, but not so easy when you have to do so yourself. And without it, no real change will take place.
    I will share this article with a few people.


  2. Pingback: Leading Change: Meet Me Where I Am « Linked 2 Leadership·

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