America is not generating a lot of real leaders today.

Too many organizations don’t focus on leadership development like they should. The results are obvious.

Leaders are either dysfunctional, status quo, incremental, significant, or transformational. Leadership style and strategies are obviously influenced by what the situation demands. The level of necessary and lasting positive change sought and achieved differentiates these types of leaders. Whether their focus is on the mission and the team or themselves matters a lot.

If you inherit a top tier organization, you will lead less change unless the future requires it. If the organization needs serious improvement or it’s failing, you must be a significant or transformational leader. You will build and sustain the right leadership, team, and culture aligned to the best mission for the organization.

Change is hard. It takes time, patience, and discipline. You have to identify and address the obstacles.  You simply cannot completely reverse decades of decline or dysfunction in a few years.

The question is do you see positive, substantial, and measurable change every year? Culture change is key. Significant or transformational leaders are honest and open about the challenges and have a genuine commitment to long term organizational success. The change they lead will outlast them.

If you see few or no real changes in leadership, team, or culture in an organization who truly needs it in just the first two years, you have your answer. You have a status quo CEO more concerned with keeping the job than doing the job. There will be no enduring positive change. They may talk a good game but lack the interest, will, and ability to do it. The organization will either be the same or worse when they leave.

Significant and transformational leaders are a small percentage of all leaders today. Most are either dysfunctional, status quo, or incremental. This holds true across all three sectors public, private, and non-profit. We see it in multiple metrics. For example, it’s evidenced by record lows of employee satisfaction, engagement, thriving, and retention. 21st century America needs more significant and transformational leaders.

You will have all kinds of leaders during your career. You will learn from each of them. Learn to be the leader you would want to follow.

Be the leader expected by the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow. Lastly, whichever leader you are – be honest in both words and actions to yourself and those you lead about which one you really are.


From the Teacher: Leadership Lessons with Dr. Saviak is a weekly column with the esteemed Joseph C. Saviak, Ph.D., J.D., M.A., M.S., Management Consulting & Leadership Training.