Transformational Change Leadership: Stories of Building a Just Future is a resource for a new generation of leaders in development, rights, academia, philanthropy, business, innovation, and community organizing, to reflect on your own leadership process. Through stories of leadership, we explore what it takes to make transformational change, and what processes and characteristics unite leaders who create impact at scale.
This project presents a set of characteristics of leadership that, cultivated together and exercised holistically, provide a pathway to catalyzing transformational change in a rapidly shifting environment. It is not a guide to personal leadership development, but rather a roadmap for leadership in collective, community-led, and collaborative action.
Characteristics of Transformational Change Leadership
Individuals, organizations, or collectives who embody the process of transformational change leadership carry a particular set of characteristics:
In this section, explore our definitions for each characteristic, followed by stories that illustrate how leaders exhibit each of these characteristics in practice.
Leaders today tackling the world’s most difficult problems around equity, resilience, health, education, agriculture, and ecology must focus not only on an end-goal; they must also ask critical questions about how to achieve their organization’s vision through processes that embody their values. For example, to encourage outside-the-box thinking and risk-taking decision-making among staff or constituencies, the examples in this project can help instill confidence in how local groups and individuals can pave new pathways. Combating authoritarian structures requires that leaders understand and value the social fabric and resilient networks that can help them gain power in the face of oppression. The leaders profiled by the Transformational Change Leadership project can provide insights to those who are seeking to help their own communities.
Who is TCL for?
TCL was created with various sectors in mind, including for-profit and market-driven entrepreneurs, philanthropy, governmental institutions, social movements, NGOs, CBOs, and affected communities themselves. While it might seem that these latter groups — social movements, NGOs, and communities — bear the most obvious connection to TCL, understanding why leadership is central to any organizational entity, how leadership occurs, and how it can be nurtured unpacks its cross-sector significance. This particular discussion guide was designed to give current and potential social impact and social justice leaders a tool for understanding collective leadership. Consider the following scenarios:
- You are a member of an affected community, seeking to use your existing skills and resources to catalyze impact and scale it with and for your community members. TCL showcases experiences like your own and explains how the process of leadership can be applied to your situation to catalyze change. It also provides an opportunity for you to share your own experiences to help educate other leaders like you.
- You are an NGO or a CBO, seeking to assess an existing or prospective partnership with another organization, community, or a governmental institution. TCL provides a framework for understanding key qualities that a stakeholder might already possess, whether the partnership is a good match with your organization’s strengths.
- You are a student or practitioner in the field of international affairs or international development, seeking to understand how best to bolster a local community that builds towards long-term structural change. TCL helps identify what latent leadership strengths a community already has and what key areas can be strengthened.
- You are part of a faith-based or interest-based group seeking to build morale, identify your group’s unique strengths, and provide support to help your group achieve their values. TCL offers examples of what others like you have experienced.
- You are part of a loosely-based association or movement seeking to achieve long-term change and maintain the powerful network that you’ve helped to create. TCL helps frame how these twin objectives are necessarily intertwined. • You are an entrepreneur or impact investor seeking to scale through market-based solutions. TCL functions as a way to understand whether the target community is poised to take advantage of a product or new strategy.
- You are a philanthropist, trying to assess where to invest your money and how to deepen the impact of your investment. TCL suggests a new perspective for assessing the quality of the existing leadership (or the opportunities for building leadership) in the communities you wish to support. In each of these cases, social change and a payoff can be achieved not through investing in a single individual or project, but building leadership among a local community. Understanding and implementing TCL thus translates into an effective investment of your resources (time, money, infrastructure).
What do we mean by ‘leadership’?
TCL raises key questions to help define collective leadership. Throughout the project, we’ve used individual leaders as storytellers to describe the agency of a community, group, or movement. In doing so, our intention is not to highlight the individual leader as a “hero,” but rather to position them as a model of collective leadership — that is, as an integral part of a movement which inspires others to do and to achieve together. Their actions to mobilize the latent leadership within a whole community illustrate what leadership can mean to groups and to communities.
Explore the Transformational Change Leadership website