By Chaplain (Col.) Gary Hensley, U.S. Army Japan and I Corps (Forward) April 30, 2013
An old Chinese proverb says, "If you want five years of prosperity, grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people."
I believe some people are naturally gifted to lead, but all people can be developed and mentored to lead. It is imperative that our Army grows its own leaders to ensure we can meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, and transformational leadership is a key approach to meeting this imperative.
The U.S. Army Japan "Words to Live By" drive us toward being transformational leaders at any level, as these types of leaders focus on several of the words, to include: "Do what is right ... legally, ethically and morally," "Practice the 'Golden Rule'" and "Train your replacement and develop tomorrow's leaders."
These powerful words offer every member who lives and serves in our communities across Japan a baseline for personal and professional actions and interactions, and they get at the heart of transformational leadership.
Transformational leaders find ways to grow our next generation for future challenges and demonstrate a vital personal connection between the leader and those they lead. Transformational leadership is a calling that projects the Golden Rule -- these leaders of influence do unto others as they would like others to do unto them, or unto the future.
Transformational leaders invest in subordinates, and the powerful return on this investment is the creation and development of other focused leaders for generations to come. This is the kind of leadership our military and nation needs; simply stated, it is the right thing to do.
To become a transformational leader takes an intentional, time-consuming investment in developing subordinates. It is challenging, especially given the present fast-paced, resource-constrained environment in which we live and serve. It is not easy, but it is one of the most important acts we can take for the future of our Army. Transformational leaders invest in and develop tomorrow's Army leaders. This is a selfless "pay it forward" style of leadership, by current leaders, and it is a great investment to honor our profession and our Army team.
Transformational leaders are charismatic. Their followers seek to identify with their leaders and emulate them. This does not happen by accident. Leaders "model" leadership, and they lead by example. In a real sense they are excited, enthusiastic cheerleaders for their subordinates. They speak with words and act with deeds that are admirable, appreciated and highly esteemed. The more selfless they act, the more charismatic and influential they become.
Transformational leaders are inspirational. Leaders inspire their followers with challenge and persuasion. They provide meaning and understanding. They build a sense of vision and purpose in their subordinates. They are enthusiastic and get excited about what they are pushing their teams to accomplish. This is contagious behavior even amidst challenging circumstances and fatigue. They are optimistic and find the positive in all things. Their followers will focus on their leader's optimism when circumstances discourage them. Transformational and inspirational leaders always challenge and inspire others to always do what is right ... legally, morally and ethically.
Transformational leaders are individually considerate. They provide their followers with support and focus on individual needs. These leaders recognize that each subordinate is unique and requires individual attention to develop into a mature leader. The leader takes on the role of a mentor and a coach. They find individuals strengths and leverage them, while simultaneously knowing their weaknesses and helping to strengthen them. They see each individual as unique and offering value that can be utilized for the benefit of others.
Transformational leaders are intellectually stimulating. They are able to expand their followers' use of their own abilities. They find ways to stimulate their efforts to be innovative and creative. Whether by providing opportunity or challenge, their subordinates grow in their abilities and confidence. These leaders applaud creativity, include people in the decision-making process, and restrict public criticism of mistakes or ideas. The leader is not always the "answer provider," but instead, these leaders draw the answers out of their subordinates.
In conclusion, transformational leadership holds the key to growing "Army Strong" leaders for our military and our nation -- and it is the leadership style of those who truly strive earnestly to honor USARJ's Words to Live By. To become a transformational leader, one must be willing to change one's thinking. They must be willing to change behavior. They must be willing to change their style.
Our Army defines leadership as "… influencing people -- by providing purpose, direction and motivation -- while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization." Napoleon reminds us, "Leaders are dealers in hope." Let us become transformational leaders who seek to be a positive example for others to emulate and imitate; let us live by those timeless USARJ words.