The Business Case for Transformational Leadership

In today’s competitive business environment, executives are not interested in investing money in company culture unless they are able to see results in terms of tangible business value. Working in the field of transformational leadership and large-scale change, I see plenty of consultants who do magnificent work but struggle with connecting the dots between the work they do and the ultimate value they will add.

Potential clients often ask me how I provide value, and how will they measure that value? The recent Ultimate Culture Conference exposed me to several tools that can help. There were several culture-related talks that reinforced how this work can drive tremendous value for an organization. Take the case of the Episcopal Church, for example. An organization as mature, traditional, and rigid as can be, led by Bishop Jeffrey D. Lee and Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, the Episcopal Church has made tremendous progress transforming their culture.1 They have done so using culture assessments that provide clear recommendations while confirming progress in building a vital culture and healthy leaders.


Transformational leaders as change agents

Let’s start by defining transformational leadership. This is the leadership required to move an organization through major change. It involves creating and communicating a strong purpose—one that speaks in terms of outcomes. For this to be effective, leaders must lead based on true character—traits such as trust, honesty, and integrity. Transformational leaders build effective relationships with employees throughout the organization, and they encourage achievement. 2

In my work, I have developed leadership teams to come together to more effectively help their organizations through large-scale change. These leaders came to learn that success had more to do with their alignment to the cause than the intent they shared. They learned that success was directly correlated with their ability to be a role model. They learned that success came not because of any one leader’s efforts, but because they, as a team, presented a united front. This all resulted in projects that achieved amazing results. Here are a few examples:

  • A large-scale technology change that was implemented on time and under budget
  • Another technology change that was implemented on time and caused minimal disruption
  • A project that generated bottom-line value nearly four times by which was justified
  • A culture change project that reduced attrition by more than 50 percent

These are all significant business results, measured in business terms, that resulted from notable change driven by successful transformational leaders.

Achieving change through Constructive behavior

Across these projects were common elements that knit together to drive success.

  • Developing Constructive leadership behaviors to build relationships and drive engagement
  • Building Constructive team behaviors to help members interact productively, manage healthy conflict, and align on priorities, then commit and hold one another accountable
  • Asking leaders to work with project team members and employees to understand the value of the transformation, and coach employees to adopt Constructive behaviors in support of the change
  • Identifying new measures to gauge performance, related back to bottom-line business impacts

Historically, about half of my work in transformational leadership and large-scale change has been leading organizations through mega-sized technology implementations. Through this experience, I have learned that these projects are more about changing culture than they are about changing technology.

In addition, more and more of my clients are asking for help with cultural changes they are trying to make in their organizations. Several of the presenters at the Ultimate Culture Conference, including Bishop Lee and Reverend Jennings, have found great success in using validated assessments to measure behaviors within their organizations and guide them in shifting these behaviors to be more Constructive. The Life Styles Inventory™ (LSI) and Group Styles Inventory™ (GSI) can help with the team and leadership actions mentioned above, while the Organizational Culture Inventory® (OCI®) and Organizational Effectiveness Inventory® (OEI) assist in managing and shifting the overall culture and climate. These assessments are a part of the globally recognized change solutions and measurement tools from Human Synergistics.

I have learned that these projects are more about changing culture than they are about changing technology.

When transformational leaders take the reins of large-scale change, they can create tremendous value. People learn how to interact differently; they learn how timing becomes more critical in their interactions, and they see how process control becomes more of their role and less the role of their supervisors. This is a significant cultural shift.

How will you prepare to lead your team through change?

How are you affecting your organization, and are you ready to lead transformational change? I encourage you to explore my two assessments to help you determine the magnitude of your next change, and the readiness of your leadership to drive these transformations.

I welcome your comments and thoughts on LinkedIn and Twitter.


1 Diocesan News. (February 17, 2016). New Report Measures Progress in Diocesan Culture Change. Retrieved from:

2 Masi, R. J., & Cooke, R. A. (2000). Effects of transformational leadership on subordinate motivation, empowering norms, and organizational productivity. International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 8, 16-47.

About the Author

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Steve Salisbury

Steve Salisbury is an organization change, leadership, and culture consultant who has helped dozens of executives lead change and grow their businesses. Steve’s unique approach is to understand and adjust organizational culture and then execute strategy quickly, effectively, and with the highest return possible. Steve evaluates interpersonal, organizational, and process elements to eliminate cross-functional dysfunction and builds teams to create a leadership culture to drive exponential growth. Steve has worked with the world’s most recognizable and global organizations to drive growth by creating capacity, galvanizing leaders, and driving accountability. In 2020, Steve published his first book, Activate: 15 Steps to Profitable Strategy Execution. The book explains how to drive greater profitability faster. Steve also serves as a volunteer mentor for SCORE, an organization that provides small business advice to help companies start, grow, and operate efficiently.