Transformational Leadership – a poem

By Andrew J. Hughes

Andrew is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology’s Administration and Leadership Studies, Nonprofit and Public Sectors, Ph.D. program and the director of the Garthwait Leadership Center at Gettysburg College. 

What does it mean to transform or to be transformed?
Is it to be a part of a revolution?
An upheaval of the way things were,
to form a foundation upon which to build new ways of knowing, being, and doing?
Perhaps a revolution like the birth of America: a revolt that became a revolution in the
pursuit of life, true liberty, and the promised opportunity to pursue happiness.
Yet as the name implies, a revolution is a cycle which will always lead us to the same state we’ve known before.
So what does it mean to transform?
Is it a metamorphosis?
A process of fundamental change in form, condition, or nature.
To morph from one state to another
like a hairy, slow, hungry, but cute caterpillar
into a beauty full of color and flight and hope.
But can we honestly believe that we as humans can recreate something so perfect?
So maybe transformation means something more simple or surface-level?
Like an alteration, or a difference in appearance of something or someone.
Like the tailoring of a new suit, or the making up of one’s face.
Yet that type of change rarely lasts, as cosmetics wash away and suits become worn.
So what does it really mean to transform or to be transformed?
Fundamentally, transformation is about change.
Not change apart, or change from one thing to another.
But change together, and change with one another.
Like a loving couple growing old together.
As the great transforming leadership theorist James MacGregor Burns pioneered:
“[Transformational] leadership occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality.”
“Transforming leadership ultimately becomes moral in that it raises the level of human conduct and ethical aspiration of bother leaders and led, and thus it has a transforming effect on both.”
Transformation is a shared endeavor.
And as leaders, we must aspire to transform ourselves, each other, our workplaces, and our communities together.

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