Inspirational Presence: The Art of Transformational Leadership (2009), written by Jeff Evans, is a fantastic read. Evans, who holds his PhD in Educational Human Resources Development from Texas A&M, works in the business world. He has dabbled in academia as well, but his life’s work is in leadership development as well as an executive coach. Evans previously co-authored Ten Tasks of Change (2001).
It is clear that Evans believes in transformational leadership. He defines transformational leadership through the actions of leaders. These include:
- Inspiring a shared vision.
- Focus on organizational mission and the human capacity to deliver.
- Caring about the people in the organization, not just their performance.
- Engagement with those people and their aspirations, as well as sharing your own.
- Establishing long-term goals that are aligned with the shared vision.
Allowing others to contribute, even if you have superior technical knowledge, use that knowledge to educate your people. Providing people with access to information, allowing for growth.
Inspiration vs. Motivation
While the distinction is made between the differences, it is a nuanced difference, that I felt should be a bit clearer. Evans uses dictionary definitions to make his point, yet these distinctions do not seem as distinct as they could have been. Inspiration being defined as “estacy” and motivation defined as “excitement”. He later describes inspiration coming from “our deepest, most connected places. It sustains us through good times as well as adversity”. This is the area in the book, I felt he could have done a better job.
This is an area that Evans does a very good job in defining. He writes about envisioning a compelling future. This is brilliant. In this text, the definition used “is more a definition of what is possible more than anything else” (p77). It is what inspiration requires, a compelling future state. He describes the way in which people understand and learn. Visual learners needing a picture. Yet there are others who “see” this vision in terms of stories or even feelings. Evans allows for this as well.
Vision requires imagination. It is not the current state, but as mentioned earlier a compelling future state. To allow for this requires imagining that future state. This may require suspending the obstacles in order to allow of the imagination to run free. Putting aside limiting beliefs, if you will.
Contrary to what might have been read in other works, a Vision does not simply happen because we created one in our minds and reminded ourselves of that vision. While those are guiding forces, it is pointed out that in order to realize your vision, you must commit to that future state, then take action that supports it.
The action required takes the competency to achieve the desired results. The job of the transformational leader is not to do for others, but to provide the tools and resources for them to realize their vision. This will almost always require the aforementioned access to information. Education and training.
The Change Equation
Evans describes what it takes in mathematical terms in order to realize transformation. He details this in a formula:
C=D x V x F > PC
C= the amount of change people will accomplish
D= their dissatisfaction with the status quo
V= their vision for a preferred future
F= the clarity about the first steps in how to go about the change
PC= the perceived costs of change (resistance to change)
This is where Evans marries the theory of Transformation Leadership and change into practice. He clearly states that people will only change if they want to. He believes this equation makes the determination. The transformation leader is only a piece of this, and has influence on the Vision as well as the clarity on the first steps. The rest belong to the people who we are needing for change to happen. This is where Inspiration happens, this is the intersection between inspirational leadership and transformational leadership.
Five Competencies for Transformational Change
These five competencies have been adapted from The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner (1987). Evans places them within his own model, which includes Wisdom, Systems, Reflection and Community. The five competencies include:
- Envision a compelling future
- Commit to the future
- Set high performance goals
- Enable inspired action
- Exude energy and inspiration.
It is the last one, exude energy and inspiration that he defines as “presence”. This is the glue that binds the other competencies. It is what your people are looking for in their leader. While presence alone cannot inspire change, without that presence, there will be no inspiration.
Inspirational Presence is a very solid piece of work. It is written in a style that is both intellectual yet, accessible. Evans market is clearly the private sector, (as opposed to academia). His style is smooth and easy to follow. I highly recommend this work for anyone who espouses to lead, not matter your position in your organization.