November 4, 2023
Mr. Sumit Bhosale, with over 28 years of leadership experience in various industries, shares his insights on transformational leadership and its distinctive attributes. He highlights that transformational leadership is characterized by its ability to inspire and motivate individuals to achieve extraordinary outcomes. This approach emphasizes personal growth, a shared vision, and ethical considerations.
Sumit’s journey began as a trainee engineer at Turbocam (a US MNC in the field of 5-Axis CNC Manufacturing for Aerospace Turbomachinery) after completing his mechanical engineering degree in 1995. He identifies key characteristics of transformational leadership compared to other styles and discusses how he still strives to embrace these skills that focus on the big picture, provide a sense of purpose, and instill a willingness to take responsibility for one’s actions.
He cites several experiences working closely with transformational leaders who gave equal opportunities to team members, demonstrated fairness, and encouraged ‘no infringement’ overstepping others’ opportunities. Sumit believes that transformational leaders engage employees effectively without overemphasising or undermining work-life balance and that true passion drives individuals to go the extra mile.
Sumit feels he has reasons to believe that ‘an agile’ leader often makes an extra effort to adapt to varying personality types in dynamic contexts, leaning more on experiential learning rather than relying solely on theoretical frameworks. Sumit also emphasizes that the need to balance different leadership styles is contingent upon the context and the specific goal to be achieved. He encourages aspiring leaders to closely associate with a mentor(s) to build their acumen for leadership, and they must serve the passion for mentoring the next line of leaders.
Transformational leadership may be looked upon as a multidimensional attribute that entails variegated personality strengths, not just a set of tools or strategies. It’s about developing a character that combines charisma, participative management skills, and the ability to engage and influence communities of people in a way that may lead to meaningful change on a distant horizon. Transformational leaders are charismatic, but they also possess the energy and passion to inspire others. They are adept at engaging individuals from diverse backgrounds who have an endearing experience serving a bigger purpose for the organization while satisfying their own ‘hierarchy of needs’ as theorized by Maslow in the 1950s.
A transformational leader’s capacity to negotiate change with effective and efficient stakeholder buy-in is critical to success. Sumit believes that for a long-term impact, the balancing of the ‘three-legged’ tools of task ownership, authority, and responsibility cannot be overstated. When leaders actively involve people in decision-making and develop aspirations for the business, they foster a culture of involvement and ownership. Employee engagement is not merely a one-time event or an annual exercise, as organizations have recently realized. The transformational leader serves as a catalyst in the ongoing development of this culture of employee involvement.
Leaders that excel in this role are skilled administrators and avid system thinkers, more often than not. They also have a participative attitude and a dash of charisma. To maintain discipline and decorum, it may be necessary to take an authoritative stance at times. Having said and done everything, they continue to provide stability and direction to the team as the transformation’s lighthouse. Transformational leaders, like everyone else, face problems and flaws. These leaders must always be attentive to self-imposed boundaries and overruns to maintain accountability and integrity for the greater purpose.
Transformational leaders must be politically astute but in a positive and constructive way, channelizing team energies with their subtleties to foster fruitful collaboration. A crucial indicator of a good transformational leadership attempt is the ability to make a long-term influence.
When discussing leadership styles, there is a need for a theoretical framework. Sumit helped clarify his stance, which is pivotal in the development of any transformational leader.
Sumit’s personal testimony throughout the last 28 years credits the leaders who contributed to his leadership qualities as more than just guides or instructors. He grew up seeing them add to his life ‘as a performer’ and ‘as a visionary,’ both of which worked well together. Mr. Marian Noronha, Turbocam’s CEO, is credited with his transformational goodness. It is critical for transformative leaders who desire to have an impact on others.
Everything must work together to increase engagement, make a long-term impact, and reduce attrition. To effect significant change, one must embrace both performance, values, and vision. If either is lacking, one is unable to be effective as a change agent, with corporate goals, or in the spiritual sphere.
Sumit enthusiastically recalls his time working with Turbocam and how the CEO, Mr. Marian, helped him see P+V+ from a new perspective. Some may be P+V+ (high performance with values and vision), while others may be P+V- (high performance with values and vision) or P-V+ (low performance with values and vision). P+V+ are the ones who make a difference to the organization’s goals. However, P-V- (poor performance, values, and vision) may not contribute effectively and may become like seedlings on stony ground, never prospering in their own or the organization’s purpose. Because they have the vision and the desire, the last type may be trained. He argues that the transformational leader selects these contributors with care. These choices are instrumental to the purpose of the organization. The transformational leader discerns and spurs the followers to align with this vision.
“We live in a culture that is not generous. In a poor culture, it can be, ‘Why should I help someone not from my family?'” (Noronha, 2022) Marian, when asked about how the company’s mission has impacted the communities around him.
Sumit observes ‘performance’ and ‘values and vision’ at work in both the corporate and spiritual realms. This is how he approaches his own teams, and he sees decreased attrition rates as a result of his clear faith in the transformational leader’s advice and support. And all while balancing competing team member ambitions and long-term organizational growth objectives.
Sumit gives the following example from a previous organization with which he worked: Turbocam budgets 10% of its income for charitable giving to the communities in which it builds its business. When profits are insufficient, they make 10% of 10%. And this is by no means considered Corporate Social Responsibility, Marian, the founder, believes, because it implies we are stealing from the community and ‘guiltily’ giving it back. It is significantly more satisfying to use our hands to create riches for our employees (and the investors who took the financial risk).
When asked about young people joining groups with passion and hopes to become leaders in the future, Sumit believes the new generation is vibrant and bright, but that aspirations must be viewed critically. While they must be quick learners, they may go to someone for guidance. Mentorship is a selfless act, and those seeking it are frequently few and unwilling. It does not have to be a formal mentoring relationship but rather an informal, indirect professional bond. Sumit elaborates on his point of view while waxing nostalgic over a few leaders who mentored him in more indirect ways. On one’s trip, one may learn knowledge that is not documented anywhere; this is known as tacit knowledge or experiential wisdom. That is exactly what a great transformational leader does. He aspires to leave a legacy through what he does and does not do.
Sumit encourages his team members not to take things for granted while also inspiring them. Sumit is convinced that he would guide with earned wisdom and invested discernment, having gone through his team’s experiences personally over the years. He realizes that training them on how to deal with challenging consumers will not be found in academic literature. However, diving into an on-the-job experience—catching someone dealing with an upset customer, for example—can provide invaluable learning.
Sumit continues, “Today’s youth are eager for quick results, frequently hopping between jobs every two years, sometimes with no real growth in their understanding of the work or the organizations.” It’s critical to spend some reasonable time in a location to influence (and be influenced by) the culture and vision, as well as to interact with good leaders who build you up to build ammunition for the long haul. Mentoring selflessly, a desire to be a mentee, a continual learner, and a readiness to stay there for a while are often missing in new aspirants.
A transformational leader is a charismatic visionary who has seen what others have not. He is an ardent storyteller who frequently employs metaphors that fascinate anyone over time. He aspires to be a systems thinker, if he is not already one, but he constantly invests in modeling trust for his followers. And, because he is not without flaws and because he sees end results that do not always make sense to others, he establishes accountability and sets unseen boundaries to protect himself and the vital purpose that his leadership serves. And to be a ‘good finisher’!
This post would be incomplete without Sumit’s “Trust Fridge” example, which his inspirational leader placed in the context of being transformational. “Marian (CEO of the company I worked with), as an entrepreneur, always emphasized trust as a common element of every business or professional initiative,” Sumit says. The visionary created the concept of the “Trust Fridge,” with goods stored for employees ranging from tea and nibbles to ice cream and desserts, all at subsidized prices. The only condition was that employees who used it must declare it on the chart on the front door of the refrigerator and pay for it when billed at the end of the month.
There was a good probability that a dishonest employee would not mark the chart, but this was the entrepreneur’s desired “cost of trust”! When I worked there, it was functioning, and it facilitated trust. Is it still around? I’m confident it is! If not the fridge, the trust thrives! “Because the transformational leader does something out of the ordinary!” He is also a model of trust! He has an impact on people’s communities as well!
Santosh Avvannavar, CEO QtSTEAM & Mentor QtPi Robotics