There are subtle differences between operational leadership and transformation leadership, and much of this is to do with mindset.

Business transformation is highly dependent on building a coalition and empowering people to act in the right way to help achieve the vision. So leaders need to focus on shaping that environment and encouraging effective communication, engagement and collaboration. But this starts with leadership and an aligned leadership team mindset.

From the CEO and the full leadership team, a shared mindset that embraces business transformation is vital for the future of the company. The CEO might have their work cut out to get their full leadership team on side with this, but it’s essential that the senior leadership team is united when it comes to Business transformation. The CEO needs to address any signs of doubt with education, and as a last resort, but, if necessary, replace those that don’t buy in to the need to transform.

The message from the CEO must be clear …”you’re either on the bus with me – or on the road”.

The reason this united front among leaders is so important is because the next port of call for the leadership team is the workforce, and a consistent message needs to be communicated across every area of the organisation. A company can't afford to have anti-transformation leaders slipping messages of doubt and criticism into their workforce, as this will only serve to hinder and undermine the efforts of others.

Leaders that are resistant to transformation can act as a cancer, killing healthy cells in the organisation at every opportunity, often to protect their own interests. So it’s important the CEO prevents this from happening – at all costs – regardless of how long any troublemakers might have been around.

Business transformation requires skills, attributes, capabilities, and influence that only senior leadership has. So leaders need to use these assets to form a transformational vision that is both unambiguous and compelling – and then clearly communicate it across the organisation. Leaders need to identify the capabilities and initiatives required to transform their vision into reality, and ensure the right governance is in place to steer the effort and avoid it going off track.

Having a vision and clearly articulating it across the organisation is nothing new for leaders, particularly the CEO. But having a transformative vision which looks very different to the current shape of the business is a greater challenge.

Corporate culture has been designed to maintain a company’s trusty old ways of working and when employees have witnessed so many failed projects and programmes in the past, it’s no surprise that the very notion of transformation strikes fear and resistance into the hearts and minds of many employees. This means that the CEO and their leadership team really have their work cut out in communicating their vision effectively.

Leaders need to consider how their company is going to be different and transform into a modern economy business. They need to understand the threats and opportunities the new economy presents and how they will respond, and how they will ensure their organisation is capable of transforming.

While the wider workforce should be involved in the transformation from innovation onwards, it’s the senior executives who are responsible for clarifying and communicating the overarching vision throughout the organisation. So before an organisation’s culture can be nurtured for transformation, the mindset of leaders must be suitably aligned by the CEO.

Fundamental to an organisation’s transformation success is its culture, mindset and behaviours and it’s vital that leaders take responsibility for bringing about the changes required in these areas. Delegating accountability for this to lower-level management will almost certainly result in politics and other mid-level management conflicts that will only serve to hamper a transformation.

Cultural, mindset and behavioural shifts must be seen to come from the most senior leaders, with them clearly communicating their messages – repeatedly. These shifts must be replicated down through the organisation at every level – addressing any pushback that is encountered along the way in a constructive manner.

With the right leadership, business transformation opportunities can build on one another to foster new ways of working, which will support the achievement of the transformation vision.

Leaders also need to recognise that sometimes, they might not find the capabilities they need, already inside their organisation and sufficiently available to undertake a new role in transformation.

The best leaders have a solid grasp of the key capabilities they need to make transformation successful. They're far more successful than those that underestimate the importance of specific transformation expertise, making the false assumption that operational staff have all the skills and capabilities needed for transformation.

As many lessons learned have shown, underestimating transformation capability is one of the main reasons for transformation trouble.