I recently completed my PhD in organizational psychology. For my dissertation, I studied how transformational leaders inspire team commitment and high-performance.

In this article, I will briefly describe the core attributes of transformational leaders. I will then share how I recently had an experience with one of my mentors and leaders, Joe Polish, the founder of Genius Network. I will then explain how team members, and people in general, can more quickly learn from their experiences, and how great leaders can help.

Transformational Leadership Theory

Transformational leadership is embodied in four behaviors:

  1. Idealized Influence - Transformational leaders are role models who, through their actions and values, inspire those who follow them. They take risks and follow values, and display convictions that create a sense of confidence in their followers.
  2. Inspirational Motivation - Transformational leaders have the ability to inspire confidence, motivation and a sense of purpose in their followers. They articulate a vision and communicate expectations and confidence in the team. They communicate with confidence, optimism, and the ability to point out positive during the challenges of growth.
  3. Intellectual Stimulation - Transformational leaders value creativity and autonomy among each team member. The leader involves members in the decision-making process and stimulates creative thinking. They challenge assumptions and create an environment where healthy conflict can arise. They change how their followers think about and frame problems and obstacles. 
  4. Individualized Consideration - Transformational leaders know that each member of the team is a unique individual, with specific needs and wants. Through one-on-one coaching and mentoring, transformational leaders provide customized training for each team member's needs and roles. 

These four principles are general, not specific. There are endless ways leaders can implement and embody these four principles. 

One of the ways is laid-out in the book, Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organizationby organizational behavior expert, Dr. David Logan. Logan found that good leaders communicate with people in "triads," rather than "dyads."

It is common for people to communicate in silos. This is often done because people want to maintain power in their relationships, rather than bringing people together. Epic leaders do not communicate in silo's but bring people together.

When I first met Joe Polish, I was surprised that he would often include me in 3-way texts (triad). Rather than having individual text conversations with two people, Joe quickly just brings the three together and the problems get solved much quicker. 

Transforming 'Conflict' Into Learning, Trust, and Results

Recently, we were working on a marketing campaign and Joe brought a few of the team members on the project together. 

Quickly, there become some conflict about the campaign.

Transformational leaders do not react to the energy of the group, they find subtle ways to foster transformation and trust in the group.

In the famous book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Patrick Lencioni​ has two very important quotes:

"Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they're doing it because they care about the team."

"If we don't trust one another, then we aren't going to engage in open, constructive, ideological conflict."

During the brief conflict, Joe sent a voice text message with a great analogy. He said that in order to get things right, it's like sanding something down with sandpaper. Sanding something down requires friction.

You shouldn't be afraid of friction.

As Lencioni says, if teams really trust each other, they will openly share their opinions without worry that the relationship is in jeopardy. Actually, if you really care about the team and the mission, you will be open. But you'll also be willing to change your mind.

Transformational leaders are patient with the emotions of their team. But they also help team members change their minds.

I needed my mind changed in this particular conflict, which was very small in reality.

But Joe's words helped me see the bigger picture of what was going on, and helped me quickly get out of my own way, and out of the team's way, so we could move forward with the bigger mission.

Learning From Experience

This brings me to the final part of this article, and that's learning from our experiences. In the important book, Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior, Dr. David Hawkins portrays what he calls a "Map of Consciousness."

This map reflects where people are at in their emotional development. The level of your emotional development provides a score, 20-1,000.

The lower-level emotional states, which are all negative and lead to bad outcomes, are below 200.

These include:

  • Shame (20 points)
  • Guilt (30 points)
  • Apathy (50 points)
  • Grief (75 points)
  • Fear (100 points)
  • Desire (125 points)
  • Anger (150 points)
  • Pride (175 points)

Around 80% of the world lives between fear and anger. That is where they are in their emotional development.

Because most people are operating in low-frequency emotional states, they aren't happy.

The higher emotional stages, all of which attract success into your life, include the following:

  • Courage (200 points)
  • Trust (250 points)
  • Optimism (310 points)
  • Forgiveness (350 points)
  • Understanding (400 points)

The highest stages of emotional development include:

  • Love (500 points)
  • Gratitude (510 points)
  • Joy (540 points)
  • Peace (600 points)
  • Enlightenment (700-1,000 points)

Wherever you are on this "Map" reflects not only your inner but your outer worlds. The higher you "evolve" in your emotional development, the more successful you will be in life.

Here's what's crazy, though. After studying this map on literally millions of people, Dr. Hawkins found that, on average, most people only go up around 5 points throughout their entire lifetimes. As Hawkins states in POWER VS. FORCE: 

"The average advance in the level of consciousness throughout the global population is little more than five points during a lifetime. Apparently, from untold millions of individual experiences in one's life, usually, only a few lessons are ever learned. The attainment of wisdom is slow and painful, and few are willing to relinquish familiar, even if inaccurate, views; resistance to change or growth is considerable. It would seem that most people are willing to die rather than alter those belief systems which confine them to lower levels of consciousness."


Most people don't evolve because they don't learn from their experiences. Instead, they resist learning. They don't really listen.

Transformational leaders help teams come together and break through conflicts and barriers. They create individualized learning experiences, often without even knowing it. 

I'm grateful I had such an experience.