Transformative Leadership in the year of recovery

Wilson P. Tan

For many business leaders, the beginning of this new year will be a time to reflect on the lessons of the past two years and to resolve to take steps to improve their respective organizations. If the global pandemic has taught us anything, it is the need to ensure that our enterprises are strong enough to survive major upheavals and agile enough to adapt and evolve into healthier ones primed for future success.

This is where “future-back” thinking becomes useful. Future-back thinking is all about having a clear purpose and a clear vision of what you want your organization to become and then working backwards and planning for the steps and strategies that will lead to that vision and help make it a reality. It’s strategizing for the transformation of your business as it moves toward reaching its potential.

This thinking is even more critical for large, established enterprises, where transformation happens much more slowly and is likely to meet resistance. Every business needs to transform in order to thrive because change and disruption are inevitable.

This becomes even more critical given the encouraging signs of recovery we are beginning to see in our country and economy. While there is a sense of cautious optimism and rising hope that the worst is behind us, leaders understand that obstacles will still arise. However, they also know that there can be no true success without challenges to overcome.

Given the exigencies of our times and the challenges to come in what we all hope will be the year of recovery, we believe that the need for transformative leadership becomes even more urgent and important than ever. Transformative leadership is a framework that focuses on three value-driving pillars: people, technology, and innovation.


Author and leadership guru Simon Sinek once said, “Business is about people. If you don’t know people, you don’t know business.” Your business would not exist without people, especially the two most important ones: your customers or clients and your employees. Your strategies and long-term vision should have them both at their center. Every decision, every technology implementation, and every product and service must be viewed through the human lens.

Understanding your customer or client is paramount in delivering products and services that will delight them and create compelling value propositions. This is at the core of business success, but it is also critical to recognize the need to adapt to your audience constantly. As society shifts and trends emerge, having the pulse of your base and having a solid understanding of where they are going is essential for planning for the future.

Meanwhile, understanding your own people is just as important. They are more motivated to perform when they see that leadership values them and sees them as humans with real needs instead of replaceable workers. Enacting organizational transformation becomes easier when we always consider the impact on our people and act accordingly. One such transformation that is necessary for businesses to be future-proof but has a high impact on people’s everyday work is new technology implementation.


Technology can be a great disruptor, but it can also be a great equalizer. Nowadays, technology is a necessity for businesses to be competitive, and because markets can shift quickly and dramatically, rapid technology adoption is an important step that allows your organization to continue creating value for and meeting the ever-evolving needs of customers and clients.

However, as we continue to move forward into a very interconnected world, the issue of trust becomes that much more important as well. Information security and integrity are now at the forefront of conversations regarding technology in business. Speedy implementation without enough attention given to safeguards means taking on undue risk. The balancing act between ease of access and security will need vigilance and constant adjustment.

Internally, successfully leveraging and implementing technology requires upskilling and/or reskilling your people. One of the common causes of resistance to this kind of change is the need to learn new things which can be disruptive and gets in the way of people getting their work done.

I am sure that many readers are old enough to remember businesses having to drag their operations kicking and screaming into the internet age. However, as technology never stops evolving, so should we never stop thinking of how we can make it work for us and make us better. As leaders, technology transformation for your organization can be very tricky and will need you to be patient, understanding, encouraging, and communicative. This is part of making sure your business adopts a culture of growth and innovation.


For an organization to continuously thrive into the future despite shifts and disruptions, it must have a mindset of impatience and dissatisfaction, and a willingness or even an ardent desire to always seek new and better ways to operate and deliver what customers and clients need.

On the human side of this, leaders should seek to embed the transformative mindset into company culture. Make it intrinsic in how people think and operate and empower them to experiment and take appropriate risks. With innovative thinking as part of company culture, strong resistance to transformation is far less likely.

On the technology side, adoption and implementation should make business sense. Innovation should not be practiced simply for innovation’s sake. Thoughtfully scaling technology transformation allows you to learn and adjust as you go. In this way, the human impact is better managed and leveraging new technological capabilities is more effective.


The three pillars of people, technology, and innovation each are drivers that create long-term value for stakeholders. Together they comprise the transformative leadership framework that guides the necessary approach, planning, and strategies to ensure that an organization is built for the future and resilient enough to survive and thrive future disruptions — such as the Great Resignation.

Anthony Klotz, a professor of Texas A&M University, proposed the concept of the Great Resignation. This idea predicts a large portion of the workforce leaving their jobs once the pandemic ends, as it is established that how work is organized and conducted will not return to how it was before the pandemic started. This makes it even more critical for leaders to adopt these value-driving pillars not just to simply retain its employees, but to even potentially bring about a potential resurgence in the constant war for talent. In essence, we believe that by applying the transformative leadership framework to their organizations, business leaders can shift their focus from worrying about the Great Resignation and instead proactively build trust and confidence in order to drive a Great Resurgence in the business.


This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

Wilson P. Tan is the country managing partner of SGV & Co.

Leading the way in business

Other SGV News and Publications