The steps to becoming a transformational leader

By Mariyah Saifuddin

Success with technology initiatives involves more than great tech. As technology begins to move faster, enterprises using strategies like design thinking and mass customization greatly reap the benefits.

Shabbir Aqeel Danish, transformational leader, founder of Carbon53 and former CFO of NBCUniversal’s Global Technology division, shared his decades of experience in leading teams in a three-podcast series about driving innovation.

Design Thinking

Tech leaders that make design thinking a part of their daily operations see a variety or results. As Danish shared, the first step of design thinking is empathy.

It might seem odd in this industry, but the ability to understand people and their stories allows for developing better solutions. Think about it: The traditional method of developing technology solutions is based on a user story that ultimately does not work at a corporate level. Why does this happen? Because the development team did not spend enough time to understand the problem.

 Instead of empathizing and taking the time to understand the concerns from the perspective of the people for whom we are trying to solve the problem, teams use their existing biases and past experiences to create a solution. 

According to Danish in this digital era “the best leaders have to first empathize to understand their employee base, understand the problems you’re trying to solve, define purpose, ideate and do it in a collaborative way, and then build prototypes. And then test and then do that whole process all over again.” 

Design thinking is a way to embrace agility and drive real value-added changes.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership, Danish says, “is this idea that technology leaders can lead not just other technology people, but actually entire organizations through massive amounts of change.”

Our job as a transformational leader is to get the best that everybody has to offer. Danish shares the following tips:

Empathize: Understand where people are coming from.

Define the problem for everybody. Ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards a singular problem statement.

Make people part of the solution. Many times, tech leaders want to rush to their counterparts and say they have a solution. However, the best way to create the best solutions is to do that together and to do that in a way that people are not just about telling you what the problem is, but about helping you design that solution. When people are allowed to be part of that solution, that solution is going to be a lot more powerful.

Center of Creating Solutions: Move away from the idea of being the “center of knowledge” to being the “center of creating solutions”. This means that knowledge is decentralized across your team. With this paradigm shift, you can bring together your CEO, CIO, Chief Sales Officer, etc, to drive solutions using design thinking. IT suddenly is converted from being the necessary evil to the enabler of growth.

Working Towards the Solution: Make sure you remain focused on the solution rather than the technology term.

What’s Next

  1. Focus on asking the right questions. If we can ask those right questions a lot of times that’s 50, 60, 70 percent of the battle in transformation.
  2. Focus on the problem you are trying to solve and then determine what’s the best path to take and what are the best tools.
  3. Mass customization: Driving too much change too fast can frustrate not only your customers, but your employees. With transformational leadership, you can pace the change. This ensures that this movement towards mass customization is done in a responsible and repeatable way.

As Danish shares, “I’ve seen large corporations and startups when they embrace those concepts, their ability to unlock value not just for themselves and their corporations but for their customers and their audiences is unmatched.

“Those are the companies that are going to make it through the 21st century. And those are the companies that all of us should be looking at and looking for and emulating as we move forward here.

The three-part podcast series

Interested in more Tech-Driven Business podcasts? You can listen here

About Shabbir Aqeel Danish

Shabbir Aqeel Danish is an established change catalyst with more than two decades of media, distribution and technology experience.

Danish has focused his career on business transformations, technology disruptions, and content distribution. As the chief financial officer for NBCUniversal’s Global Technology division, Danish drove a companywide, multiyear technology transformation strategy.

Under his leadership, the organization drove a cumulative $150M+ productivity benefit through strategic workforce planning, application rationalization and infrastructure modernization, in addition to achieving $100M+ in business-enabled revenue and cost savings – the single largest efficiency strategy executed in the history of the organization.

Today, as the founder of Carbon53, Danish focuses on helping companies build and execute powerful growth playbooks by developing business-lead analytics, driving business process innovation, and by creating executable strategic plans.

Shabbir Aqeel Danish on LinkedIn

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Mariyah Saifuddin