A mindful and transformational journey to leadership

Article JUNE 2019

Student-Authors of the course Basic Leadership Skills – Spring 2019
White Wolves community:  
Marie Chretien (France), Chadi El Husseini  (Lebanon), David Fuchs  (Germany), Jennifer Gellert (Germany), Kaari Nieminen (Finland), Iina Tapio  (Finland), Roman Von Burg  (Switzerland) – Marcella Zoccoli (JAMK University of Applied Sciences)

– Student Editor-in-chief Spring 2019: Chadi El Husseini

A mindful and transformational journey to leadership

How can leadership guide a multidisciplinary and multicultural team to success in a global digital world?

         “ I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.”

                                                                                    -Queen Elizabeth II, n.d.

         Nowadays, due to the era of globalization, the boundaries between countries and cultures have been revoked, allowing for a free flow of knowledge. Globally, multicultural and multidisciplinary teams have become a trend, using the strengths (knowledge, experiences) of culturally diversified members i.e. a collaborative mindset. Nonetheless, multiculturality has also its drawbacks, people don´t think the same way and perceive life´s matters differently which could create a toxic environment and intercultural conflict. Hence, the emphasis on the importance of leadership´s paradigm process i.e. the adaptability, the embrace to use strengths and the collaborative mindset, the eco-system attitude (Sharmer and Kaufer 2013) and practices roaming around different approaches and styles.

Leadership starts with leading the self, understanding our deepest values (e.g. equality, self-respect, responsibility, accountability, credibility, and honesty to say the least) which tend to be stable over time and have a significant impact on our attitudes and behaviors (Rokeach 2008, 9). Dealing and leading our decisions and actions is done by using and managing our emotions, in other words, understanding others start by understanding ourselves, our emotions and our actions. Furthermore,  a team is not only a group of people who work together, but a team is a group of people who trust each other. The secret behind every leader´s success is purpose: finding a direction, aligning the community members to common grounds and promoting commitment. This will lead to the creation of a mindful environment while promoting responsibility and awareness of “the others” despite their cultural differences.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership belongs to the 4th era of leadership theories, in which high performance, culture, shared vision, facilitation and adaption are the key drivers (Gomes 2014). This approach emphasizes the internal motivation of the members of the community and has the goal to transform followers into leaders which build up trust, loyalty and respect. It begins with the creation of a common vision, followed by the motivation of the whole team so that all of them strive to achieve the goal – upon a common ground of mutual respect and understanding- which aligns with their individual values and visions. Particularly, during this process, the leader works with his team to identify needed change, create a vision to guide this change through inspiration and motivation and finally execute the transformation with commitment, while building strong and trust-based relationships (ibid).

To achieve this the leader needs the “Four I´s” in his style of leadership: (1) Idealized influence, he must live what he is saying; (2) Inspirational motivation, with this he increases the intrinsic motivation; (3) Intellectual stimulation, to empower the creative and innovative traits of the team; and (3) Individualized consideration, so the leader recognizes the motives and needs of each member thereby he can encourage everybody individual.

Traits of Transformational Leaders

Transformational leaders share and understand the collective consciousness of the entire community. Caprino (2018) describes the differentiating quality of transformational leaders as “the ability to listen and connect wholeheartedly – with compassion, respect, and emotional balance – with all people, regardless of their different ideologies and beliefs”.

A transformational leader is ready to forego the ego and puts the community before the personal gain to elicit the best performance from others. Strong internal motivation drives these leaders towards the success of the community. They are ready to adapt and to find creative ways to solve occurring issues, and they do not shy away from difficult decisions.

The leader can make precise, well-informed decisions, which are sometimes hard but necessary, they also take calculated risks based on their own instinct combined with gathered intelligence of their team members. They value the members’ insights into decision-making.

By understanding the value of others’ input and insights, leaders are more receptive to new possibilities. In fact, a good leader should encourage members to produce new ideas. An important aspect of such a leader is the ability to inspire others by respecting and valuing each of them individually while trying to understand what motivates them. Making everyone believe in the shared vision, transformational leaders guide the community towards their common goal.

  • But how can we align all members to a shared vision and a common goal, despite our cultural differences?

Well, we as individuals are similar on the outside in terms of anatomy, but the difference is under the skin. This means that we do not think alike, we don´t have the same beliefs and every person has his own values and goals. We all know that the way we lead is guided by our emotions, hence, to align all community members to common grounds the emotional intelligence is crucial!

Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman (1995) has introduced five different components of emotional intelligence. These include self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Self-awareness represents the ability of a person to recognize moods and emotions and what kind of impact they have on others. Self-regulation instead is the control over these moods and emotions and also being able to think before making the action. Motivation defines a passion that drives you to work towards your goals. Empathy is the ability to understand different emotions of other people and to act in a way that considers theirs too. Finally, social skills define the ability to build and manage relationships and networks with other people.

All five components of emotional intelligence are needed as building blocks to create an efficient leadership style of a leader. It is an advantage that all the components can be practiced and learned by developing and working on these actively. When a leader has high emotional intelligence, the overall performance and success improve. The key concept of EI is the ability to manage emotions; a leader must be able to control extreme and ultimate emotions. A leader must show respectful behavior in every situation even though he or she could be experiencing intense emotions. When the leader is aware of his or her emotional stability, it signals the followers from a stable level of leadership. Stability increases the authority and reliability between team leader and followers.

Guidance to a Common Goal

Working in interdisciplinary teams today is challenging, especially when it´s multicultural. To celebrate success as a team, it is crucial to understand the objectives and the willingness to achieve them. As a leader, it is essential to create a clear framework for the team and set a vision. To carry out this, each group member should be clear about their role within the group and understand the intentions and values of the other group members i.e. being emotionally intelligent. A common understanding of the lived values should be initiated and exemplified by the leader. For example, homogeneous groups with the same culture and values have a fundamentally lower conflict potential than multicultural groups, and yet conflicts can arise. To recognize potential conflicts early on and to solve them, open and honest communication is essential. For this reason, it is crucial to respect the needs of all group members to avoid misunderstandings and that all group members are aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Through the transformational leadership style of the leader, combined with his empathy, the members are empowered to contribute fully, and they are motivated to peak performance. In this way, it is possible to create a cross-cultural context where all team members understand, appreciate and respect each other, which in turn leads to success and personal work satisfaction.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence has no exact definition and it is hard to be defined also by AI researchers,  but it can be said that it is basically ‘’the autonomy of the machines to perform tasks in complex environments without constant guidance by a user and the adaptivity as the ability to improve performance by learning from experience’’ (The Elements of Artificial Intelligence https://course.elementsofai.com/)

It is supposed to replicate how the human brain works through cognitive functions, like learning or solving problems. Nowadays, AI is taking more and more place in the society, and especially because of all the connected devices we have and because of the fact that we need them more and more to get along with teams, to communicate, to give tasks, to share work, etc. People and especially leaders must be aware of this huge social change and should know how to deal with it every day to use them in the right way: ethically and efficiently.

Artificial Intelligence has its pros and cons, hence, leaders tend to be time-freed by all the connected devices when doing time-consuming but necessary tasks. They can focus more on human tasks that require complex thinking, interpretation, and reasoning. Also, the knowledge provided by AI allows them to take better and faster decisions, thanks to the huge databases. Furthermore, AI can provide more benefits to leaders by its predictive capabilities for decision-making; multitasking; and refining human judgment (data-driven decisions). Nonetheless, AI is increasingly able to replace humans when it comes to doing different tasks. Leaders will have to develop their other skills/intelligence  (empathy, emotion, creativity, coaching, etc.) because they will be more needed for their “human tasks” than for their “work tasks”.


Overall it can be said that a lot needs to be taken into consideration when one is striving to be a good leader. Especially within a multicultural working environment, the challenges that arise can put someone to the test. Not only that a leader must be empathic and able to align his team based on a common purpose, but the leader also needs to create connections within the group and keep the members motivated. Emotional intelligence is crucial to handle the group and to run in a way that everyone can relate to. The digital world should be thought of to efficiently decrease the time of doing different tasks and focusing more on the human development aspects of the members of a community. Leadership can guide a multicultural and multidisciplinary team into success by emphasizing on the strengths of each member, the implementation of a common understanding between all individuals regardless of their cultural background, the creation of an emphatic bridge where the two big hands of the leader is carrying all team members toward a common goal by motivation, inspiration, acceptance, and embrace.


Caprino, K. 2018. Transformational Leaders: The Top Traits That Separates Them from The Rest. Forbes 2018. Accessed on the 10th April 219. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2018/02/03/transformational-leaders-the-top-trait-that-separates-them-from-the-rest/#4088709652cc

Goleman, D. 1995. Emotional Intelligence. Bantam Books: New York

Gomes, A.R. 2014. Transformational leadership: Theory, research, and application to sports. In C. Mohiyeddini (Ed.), Contemporary topics and trends in the psychology of sports (pp. 53-114). New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Rokeach, M. 2008. Understanding Human Values. Free Press: New York.

Scharmer, O., & Kaufer, K. 2013. Leading from an emerging future: from eco-system to ecosystem economies. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

The Elements of Artificial Intelligence. 2018. University of Helsinki and Reaktor. Free online course https://course.elementsofai.com/

URN: http://urn.fi/urn:nbn:fi:jamk-issn-2669-9060-1