Posted in change, leadership

Transformational Leadership

In the past few years, I’ve often used the expression “changing tires while the car is still moving” to explain how we make change in our agency. We cannot shut things down, create a spring clean, upgrade everything and then open back up again when everything is shiny and new. We must make, to quote Dr. Schuttler “incremental gains,” as we go along. Because of this philosophy, the title of Mr. Quinn’s book (Building the Bridge As You Walk On It) interested me.

It was an intriguing read that gave me confidence in me, my leadership style, and my decision-making process. I hope you find some gems in it too. From the book:

In transformation we do not know where we want to go. In transformation we are not in control of the process, so why do we commit to it? The commitment moves us to a new state, a new way of being – the fundamental state of leadership. In this state, we see ourselves differently, more positively. We therefore see other differently, more positive. What were once constraining problems are now seen as rich opportunities. We tap new sources of power and attract others to join us on the transformational journey.

When authentically leading a transformation, you must set aside self-preservation. You must put your welfare second to the good of the vision causing you to become increasingly passionate about the vision. There is no one with the necessary expertise, because this is a new path. Since the new path may not be safe, there is no way to be in control. You are forced to move forward one blind step at a time. Normal models are not useful. The necessary language is not readily available. Thus, leaders must provide a new language, a new model, a new path.

Each of us has unique gifts that require courage to move forward to true service. Newfound courage and trust build on each other through decision-making. It is a journey without an end.  Thus, you can remain in a normal state or you can experience deep change. Deep change is letting go of control.

Deep change includes being

(a) other focused (transcending your ego and putting the good and welfare of others first;

(b) internally directed (reaching higher levels of personal security and confidence);

(c) externally open (moving outside your comfort zone, experimenting, adapting, reaching exponentially higher levels of discovery, awareness, competence and vision)

(d) purpose centered (clarifying what result I want to create; being committed and engaged, full of energy and with a unwavering standard

Reference: Quinn, Robert E. (2004). Building the Bridge As You Walk On It: A Guide for Leading Change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishing, Co.


For a list of Sheila’s books, check out


Dr. Sheila Embry is a govie, author, pracademician, sister, aunt, cousin, and friend who loves to read, write, think, and laugh. Many of her blog postings are summaries or excerpts of books that she read and wants to share to encourage others. An author with more than 25 years experience within the legislative and executive branches of the U. S. federal government holding 3 accredited degrees: Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership, Master of Arts in Human Resources Development, and Baccalaureate of Business Administration, she believes in continuing learning both on and off the job. She has been recognized with multiple professional and writing awards for her peer-reviewed, publications. Click the bibliography page above for a listing of all the publications.

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