The Second Step to Transformational Leadership

[This is the 2nd post of a 3-part series on the steps to becoming a transformational leader.]

Over my three+ decades in business, from managing union mechanics shops to corporate staffs, I’ve learned some painful lessons and made my share of mistakes in recruiting and training leaders. Especially in my role as the Corporate Employment & Training Manager for a Denver-based $250M regional homebuilder, home manufacturer, and mortgage banking firm, I experienced the pain of starting my search for and training of great leaders in the wrong place. I did not realize it at the time, but after a few failed hires and promotions, I began to realize the mistake of ignoring step one (character) and automatically jumping into step two. This mistake can be a serious – if not potentially fatal – to a company and a career.

Leadership transformation starts with the leader’s character. Here is the second step to becoming a transformational leader.

The Second Step to Transformational Leadership

The second step to becoming a transformational leader is competence.

No one would argue that great leaders must be competent, having the knowledge, skill, and abilities necessary to be a leader others will follow. But here, I warn you that if you ignore the person’s character and automatically jump into the person’s competence, you could be hiring or promoting a highly competent jerk! I have dedicated most of my academic and profession life to understanding and teaching on how to become a better leader. Now that I have you convinced (at least got you thinking) about the proper order (character first), here are the three critical components of leadership competence.


The three essential elements of competence are the abilities to Envision, Engage, and Execute.

  1. Envision answers the question, ‘What’s Next?” It mandates that a leader can think clearly, strategize, assess the external and internal environments surrounding the decisions, and determine the next nest move…all about the strategy.
  2. Engage answers the “Who” – who needs to be involved, their roles, how to connect everyone…all about the people.
  3. Execute answers the “How” and ‘When” – from the launch plan, timing, materials, progress measures, implications and redirections, celebrations…all about the results.

In a phrase, leadership competence is leading from strategy through people to achieve transformational results.