The Transformational CIO

Adopting transformational rather than traditional transactional leadership has become a cost-effective way for CIOs to reconcile the conflicting objectives of driving growth, increase agility and improve customer experiences while cutting back on expenses.

"My experience that IT leaders were brought into provide info, but not leadership," Dr. Jim Chambers said at ebizQ’s Webinar, "Innovation and the CIO: Transformation and Change in Business Processes," available at

Chambers, who is the founder and CEO of the Institute for Organizational Leadership, explained how IT leaders can “demonstrate and model leadership behaviors necessary to create a positive work culture where innovation, creativity and problem solving are normative” in a context of constant change, more frequent mergers and acquisitions and ever-increasing organization complexity.

"Organizational change is seen as a mere necessity for survival. And people are looking for our organizations need to move toward a transformational mentality -- not waiting for change to come, but have the kind of environment that anticipates change," he added.

Redesigning business processes to reduce change is one way, although Chambers noted that "the redesign of business process can become more complex than the original one." Instead, he detailed leadership strategies that let IT executives reduce complexity and absorb change in a way that adds value to the enterprise.

A central thesis behind transformation leadership, Chambers said, was that “U.S. organizations were overmanaged but underled." But by differentiating between old-style transactional leadership (clear job descriptions and rewards and punishments based on set goals) and transformational leadership, Chambers demonstrated "a direct link between transformational behavior and the ability to improve corporate performance" by focusing on a different approach to incentivizing employees.

"Transformational leadership tries to directly influence and improve the individual's performance by working on the internal needs and values of the individual ... but you have to move beyond the reward and punishment," he noted.

“People only work for money up to a certain point,” Chambers added. “If you believe that if you give something more, you’re going to get a bigger result, and you find yourself in a vicious cycle of putting out more but getting less. IT managers who are going to have long careers have to realize that transactional environment isn’t going to work on its own.”

Instead, Chambers detailed the roles of value-based attractive visions, inspiration, role modeling, support of personal growth, trust and consideration of followers’ needs.

"You want to shift away from the goals of personal interest and try to move toward the goals of personal achievement and self-actualization," as well as toward the greater good of the entire organization, Chambers said. "Many groups have broad global visions, and that gives employees the sense that ‘We're working on something greater than ourselves.’"

As one practical example, Chambers urged pure transactional leaders to avoid annual reviews. "Because they focus on rewards and punishments, there's an avoidance process going on," he said. "If someone is not doing their job and performing up to standard, you need to talk to them immediately.”

But perhaps most importantly, transaction leaders have to lead by example. "You have to model good behavior for those around you," Chambers said.

Chambers did sound a note of caution on overcoming barriers to changing transacational leaders into transformational ones. “You can’t do away with transactional, you move beyond it. You’re not throwing the baby out with a bathwater,” he observed. And in another interesting note, he revealed “the research says that women are more transformational leaders by nature.”

Technology's role in the transformational process was detailed by Magic Software’s Lee Sutton. “You can take many processes and bring them under one umbrella and expose them as a Web service, or as BPEL and monitor their effectiveness.”

To find out many more ways that transformational leadership can engender enduring value to your enterprise, watch a replay of our "Innovation and the CIO: Transformation and Change in Business Processes, at

About the Author

Gian Trotta is ebizQ's managing editor. Before joining ebizQ, he developed a wide variety of virtual news and community features for Newsday, Prodigy, Time Inc., Excite, and MSNBC.

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About ebizQ

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