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September 20, 2023 | 31 Mins Read

Transformational Leadership in the AI Era

September 20, 2023 | 31 Mins Read

Transformational Leadership in the AI Era


Sarah talks with Dr. John Chrisentary, former Director of Global Technical Services and Technical Fellow at Medtronic, about the difference between transactional and transformational leadership, why transformational leadership is so important in today’s service landscape, and how advanced technologies like AI present distinct challenges – and opportunities – for transformational leaders.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service Podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro.

Today, we're going to be talking about transformational leadership in the era of advanced technology. I'm thrilled to welcome to the podcast today, Dr. John Chrisentary, who is the former director of Global Technical Services and Technical Fellow at Medtronic. Dr. John, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Dr. John Chrisentary: Hey, it's a pleasure to be here and thank you for having me. I'm very excited about this opportunity.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I'm thrilled to have you. So I had the good fortune of moderating a panel that Dr. John was on recently at the WBR Field Service Hilton Head event, and also having the chance to sit in on his solo session that he did on transactional versus transformational leadership. And it was a great session and so I was happy when I reached out. I said, "Hey, can you come and share some of your insights on the podcast?" So here we are and happy to have you.

So at the event, you talked about this concept of transformational leadership, and we're going to get to in our conversation today how that relates to advanced technology, AI and some of the other themes that came up at that conference, of course. But before we get into that, let's go over some of the things that you spoke about at the event. So the first thing I wanted to touch on is how do you define transactional versus transformational leadership?

Dr. John Chrisentary: Wow, that is a phenomenal question. It's like, "Did you make this up, John? Where did this come from?" If we look back about 20 years ago, the thing that people were talking about, and you still use it as people manager, you're a really good people manager, and you have these soft skills, and there were actually colleges that added it to their leadership curriculum to understand this process called people management. But it's really transformational leadership, and this has been around for a while, but it was more or less defined between 1994 and 1997. There are many books about this but the main authors that people are aware of is Bass and Avolio. Now, hopefully I pronounced the last person's name correctly, but they had some documents that they wrote in '94 and '97 that spoke about transformational leadership. So I'll give you the traits.

The five traits of a transformational leader are one, they idolize the idea of influence by attributes and also by behaviors. So this works two different ways. It's what the leader provides and also what the person they're trying to influence has. And then how do they combine the two to make both work together? Those are two parts of it. They're inspirationally motivated, so it's not just, "Hey, let's do something. Let's move on. It's the way to do it. How can I get from A to B because I've traveled that road, so let me show you something shortcuts. Let me inspire you. Let me find out the things that you need that you're looking for and make it more attractive for you to be part of this process." And then they have individual consideration. And this is the hard part for a lot of leaders, you have to start to know your people on an individual basis. And so, this helps the transformational leader become more than just I'm in charge. They have a connection to literally everyone in the organization.

Now, that doesn't mean they have to sit with every person. If they have 200, 500 people under them, that's not going to happen. But there are ways that that leader will connect with their teams. Now, if you look at a transactional leader, this is different. It is a contingent award or reward. And what I mean by that is what I do for you, you give me something and if I give you what I'm stating I'm going to give you, you're going to do what I need you to do. There is no inspiration assigned to it. It's management by exception, which is active and passive. And what I mean by that is I don't have to do what I'm telling you to do, but I'll hold you accountable. So I'm not leading by example. I'm more or less leading by the power of my position.

So if I say, "Go and fix this widget this particular way," and because I told you that way and you followed my instructions and it didn't work, you're still held accountable. Whereas, if we were a transformational leader, you're going to find a way to make sure everyone is responsible from the top down. If the mistake occurs, everyone then addresses it. And it's more or less like a team effort or community effort to fix the problem versus saying, "You did the wrong thing even though I told you what to do." And if you look at these different leadership models, because people say, "Well, how many?" Because I've heard multiple views of what type of leader you can be. There are three key leadership models and then they have submodels. So you have the transactional leader, which we're talking about and the transformational leader. But the third one is the laissez-faire, and that's one... And I have not experienced this, but I've heard about it's the leader just listening. You just do what you need to do and I'll take credit, and if you don't do that, I'll hold you accountable.

And I think that's the worst of all the different leadership models. If you look in transformational, that's when you get into the charismatic, which a lot of people start to talk about and it has a bunch of other attributes that follow under it. But it is more linked to how can I influence change a person's way of thinking about themselves, about a process, how can I encourage them? And then also, how can I get them to move to a higher level? Once again, the transactional leader is, "I need you to get this done. And by doing so, the reward is you keep your job and I'll give you a bonus. You get your salary." It's very cut and dry. I equate it to what a politician does. Politician needs your vote. So they make a lot of promises, you vote for them. And of that list, you might get a half of 1% of whatever you voted for.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So then can you talk a little bit about how in the service landscape today, why is transformational leadership becoming increasingly important for leaders to understand, embrace, work toward, et cetera?

Dr. John Chrisentary: It's interesting. COVID, it was a serious condition for the entire world, but for business, it made everyone stop and take a look at how they've done things in the past and now what the future looks like. So everyone's working remote. It created a lot of havoc for a lot of leaders because they weren't used to not having the ability to walk up to someone and touch them on the shoulder and see what they're doing. Being remote made a lot of leaders nervous because it was new. What COVID has then caused is there has to be a new way of leading people because certain things are not going to go back to the way they were. So one is we're still on hybrid schedules, so we somehow have remote, some have a mixture, and there are quite a few people are going back in the office, but it's at a limited basis where they're doing maybe four days versus five. So you still have that remote aspect.

The importance now of leadership is to understand and influence and also come up with ways to drive an organization to be successful in the course of how business is done in the COVID environment or the post COVID environment, but also the expectations of the customer. One of the things we also found out from, especially from services is once we got through COVID, services fell off tremendously. So the customer expectation, it shifted, but now, we're more aware of the issues that we weren't thinking about prior to COVID. So having a leader that can provide this different mindset to get people to understand what the vision is, to live the vision, to make whatever their purpose, make it purposeful. Because normally in the past, the purpose and the vision landed at the leader's table and basically you just provide information to the team to achieve these different objectives.

Now, they need to know why. And creating that why then creates that sense of trust, but also sense of urgency and development. Because if you're telling me, "Oh, if I need to do this because the why is associated with my ability to help or to change the trajectory maybe from a medical device perspective, a patient at the end of this process, now you're giving me a value proposition that's beyond the idea of a paycheck." It is a purpose for why I'm doing my job every day. So that's why it's important to have that type of leader.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And I think talking about purpose, COVID certainly was a big factor. I think the other factor here that is tied into that is just generational differences in what's important to the workforce, right? And so when you gave the example of COVID of you could go over and put your hand on someone's shoulder, I also think that what that makes me think of is it was a lot easier for leaders to control everyone when they were in close proximity to them, right? And then they found, "Okay, if I don't have proximity and control isn't as simple, now what do I do?" Right?

Dr. John Chrisentary: Right.

Sarah Nicastro: I need to up my game and I need to actually inspire and empower, et cetera. But then, on the flip side of that, you have younger workers where they're not motivated by the same simple exchange that worked for transactional leaders for a long time. So that makes sense.

So I asked a question at the end of your session, which I loved your answer. So I said, "What keeps a transactional leader from embracing transformational leadership?" And it was that term specifically you said it's control because transformational leaders often appear to have less control because they're focused on empowering others versus empowering themselves. I love this answer because we've been talking a lot on this podcast about this idea that the old school command and control leadership is becoming very outdated. And so, your answer was very much in line with this idea of, "I don't know if you want to call it ego or what have you, but these leaders who feel their success is tied to how much perceived control they have versus how much they're willing to give others." So what do you think will ultimately happen to leaders who fail to move beyond that transactional form of leadership?

Dr. John Chrisentary: I think we're in the storm right now. If you have asked me this question back in say 2020, right after COVID was really starting to really bump up, I would state it's going to be a 50/50 type of proposition. The person who's a transactional leader can still ride this thing out for a long time before we see that there's going to be change with the organization. Now in 2023, I see that organizations are starting to lean toward having that diversified leadership that a transformational leader can provide because the roles of a lot of leaders are now not just domestic, they're international. So I'm coming from a global role. A transactional leader doesn't work well in Europe.

Matter of fact, if you're not a transformational leader, you're going to have a hard time working in the international realm because one of the things you have to create internationally is relationships. And this is where that transformational leader really comes into play because they understand that every person brings value to the process. And if they can help the person understand their value, that person has a higher probability of success, not just in the role they're in where they want to go in their career, and it builds a different level of, and I keep using this word trust because it's key of not just the leader but the organization. And you get things done that way. The transactional leader creates a barrier, literally, between he or she and whoever they're leading because their objective is not known. It's not even provided to the person who's joined the work, and the person becomes more of like a widget and I say a widget in the fact of I'll just replace you with another widget. Well, the problem about replacing people like that is you lose the capability.

We also talk about tribal knowledge, right? Tribal knowledge is I think the thing that hurts an organization more than anything else because that person with tribal knowledge leaves and then suddenly you've taken away, let's say, 20% of the knowledge of the organization of how it runs smoothly. On paper, it looks like, "Oh, well, we just got a rid of so-and-so." Internally, that 20% is the difference between a successful rollout or implementation or a non-successful. 20%. And then you say, "Okay, I'll just hire another person to get into that position." Well, the issue is you literally go from say ground zero. When the person leaves, you go negative 50 because you've lost that capability. You hire somebody that doesn't create that same influx of information, that person still has to build expertise in your area. So they're slowly building. So there's a long period of time if you put this on the graph, you literally dropped it negative 50 and it's tracking at negative 50 for months. And as that person starts to become part of your organization, gets the knowledge that the last person had that slowly start to get back to zero.

And most leaders and especially transactional leaders do not look at that time, which could be six months, could be a year of ineffectiveness. The transformational leader understands that each person brings a key component to the process, but the key is the knowledge around the entire organization. You lose a person and you might lose if you do it right, maybe 2% because someone else has the same skillset, maybe not the expertise, and they'll step up into the next role because that is what you're providing, that you're feeding, you're nurturing the organization to do. So it creates a different dynamic than what we've seen in the past with transactional leaders where these common issues of people leaving now are not the detriment of the organization, it's just part of the way an organization will work.

But internally, that knowledge is what's going to keep the organization solvent and keep people happy to trust that leader, trust the organization, and in most cases, then you get to achieve these sometimes more difficult objectives as you're rolling out to make the company more effective and efficient in its vision, using this through the people who are doing the work.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I'll tell you a quick story that I'm thinking of and it'll segue us into our conversation about technology. But I interviewed a woman, Trine, she leads logistics. So in a global role for a company, she's based out of Denmark, and she is a relatively young woman in a global leadership role. So already, there's layers of diversity more so than a lot of folks. But we were talking about leadership and she said it's very humbling today to be a leader because even when she came up through the ranks, she said the goal was to be the smartest person in the room. And not only is that not the goal anymore, it's not possible. When we talk about the way that digitalization has changed how we do business and everything that goes into those capabilities and leveraging data for business intelligence, it is not possible anymore for any leader to know everything. You are focused on accumulating a group of people that together are able to accomplish great things. No one person can be in that role.

And so she said, "That's a humbling change to go through as a leader and reconcile that it's not my job to know everything or to be the smartest person in the room. It's my job to help this group of really smart people accomplish this objective." So I'm just thinking back to that conversation and how it really parallels in the terminology we're talking through today. Her really witnessing that change from transactional to transformational, and I think it was just powerful to hear her acknowledge that that's humbling, that as a leader, there's some emotions tied to like, "Okay, it's not about me, it's about the team." Right?

Dr. John Chrisentary: Right.

Sarah Nicastro: So yeah, it's really interesting. So then let's talk a bit about the intersection of transformational leadership and advanced technology, okay? So you have all of these sophisticated tools today that are really changing the way we can do business, right? AI, machine learning, augmented reality, and so on, and so on. So it really demands leaders not only accept the change but become a lot more adaptable. So let's talk about how this factors into transformational leadership.

Dr. John Chrisentary: Okay. Well, one, the story you just told of the person overseas, I think that's a great example. The hard I think for leaders to understand is, one, you don't have to have total control. You don't have to have total control from the standpoint of how every gear moves. You just have to have control on when to move the gear. So it's a different mindset. If I have to know how every gear works, there's no way I'll be an effective leader. But if I understand the key components and I start to put people into those positions and allow them to grow and I can help nurture them to be that positioned player to move the gear, then I'm still being successful without having to know every dug on thing that goes on, right? The smartest person in the room is not the one who always is the ones talking. I was told this a long time ago.

Matter of fact, if you want to know who the smartest person in the room is, let everyone talk and wait to see who everyone wants to listen to. And normally, that person doesn't tell you everything that someone has stated. They give you two or three facts and that's it. So I say that before we get into the technology question. Technology creates what I call the agile mindset. And the agile mindset is going back from how software is developed, effective software or effective processes software development, whereas you're developing something for a company. And traditionally, if I told you I want my application to at the end be red, white, and blue, you tell the developer they do what they think you want. At the end, you get red, white, and pink. Now you say, "Okay, I want red, white, and blue." Okay, well, we'll create some updates and we'll get back to where you want to go. So day one, you're not where you want to be.

In an agile environment, the developer is coming back to you and say, "Okay, is this the red you want? Is this the color of blue you want? Is this the color white you want? Is this meeting your standards?" So by the time they give you your last, it's a final process or product, it's pretty close to what you're looking for. Now, does it take a little more time and the processes appears to at the end result, it does it because you're giving someone what they want at the end of the task, not having to fix it after the task, right? As a leader with technology, you're doing the same thing. You're seeing these new technologies come on.

One, you have to embrace them. As I already stated, the superpower of a leader is one, they have to empower themselves first, and then you empower others, and then you empower your community. And why do I state that? Because our technology is changing so rapidly now. AI is creating in the service world, opportunities I'll state like that we're not thinking about. It's also creating, I would call hazards. If someone's using say ChatGPT to write an email, and there's another AI that I just read about, actually I was testing it last week, where it writes your emails in a personal way. You don't know then if you're getting the person's information or an AI version of it, which also means is the knowledge there or is it the machine learning knowledge this person is presenting to you?

These are now new hurdles that leaders have to overcome. Now, as a transactional leader, you don't care. It seems like I'm getting the right thing from person X. We're getting our processes done. I'm meeting my objectives, let's move on. Long-term, you start to see kinks in the armor. The transformational leader wants to understand how are we working to achieve these objectives, but how are people using our tools and are our tools the tools we need for the future? So that leader starts to embrace this as the way to move forward and not a fear of this new skill or this new technology overtaking my capabilities. Now, will new technology affect the workforce? The answer is yes. It always has. If we look back before the use of laptops and even your phones, you had paper and you had people sending paper and we killed a lot of trees. We're still doing that even though with technology, but the process was slower, now you can get everything instantly.

I always equate it to when we really started getting into the internet, we used to use AOL. So everyone had to go through the process of clicking in, hearing the noise, and you would just thrilled to get logged in through this dialogue. And now if someone would provide that same level of service to you, you would say, "This is the worst thing ever had." So we have to look at technology as moving us from that dial up process to this high speed broadband process and to this gig process, to this five gig process. And as we're doing this, we're allowing our organization to move forward. Now, here's the caveat. The leader is the one who gets the team to understand the hurdle they're about to have to overcome preparing them for this. And even in being blunt, you need to do X, Y, and Z to be effective six months a year down the line, letting the people know and being honest about it.

Will everyone take that information and move with it? The answer is no. So you give them a way to move forward. You give them a roadmap that means the leader is the least adaptive. What is going on? They're really listening to what's out there from a technology perspective. And I would say in the service world, I don't know if leaders are really looking at this yet. From our conference, we saw various vendors that use AI. There's a whole lot more in development. Are leaders actually looking at this? And if they're not, their teams are not then being aware. So it's important as a transformational leader to be aware, don't have to be an expert and prepare the team because you're going to have people on your team that can fit these needs that you have, but they don't know they can fit them until that leader exposes them to what changes are coming along.

In my past roles, not just over technology, but even when I was with another company, I would have a six-month roadmap with my entire organization, letting them know where we are and where we're going to go in six months. And then here's what you need to be aware of and plan it out so that people are aware. So if we get to a point where we have to start saying, "Okay, we need these particular skills," and people have not done the work, have not taken the training, have they even asked for training. Then if they happen to lose their position due to their obsolescing themselves, the role of that or the weight of that falls on the person and not the leader.

I would prefer as a leader to at least let everyone know and in doing so, give them an opportunity to make the adjustments. And if they do that, provide them the skills, provide them training, but those that don't, at the end of the day, I can always say, I could sleep well stating, "Hey, I provided you this information. I wanted you to be successful." And you then decided not to make the move to move forward. At this point, we have to make changes.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. That makes sense. So that makes sense. But we know that change, especially when it's continual, is complex, right? It can bring about discomfort, fear, et cetera. So how does a transformational leader address that, I guess, if they're feeling it themselves and within their teams?

Dr. John Chrisentary: Well, you know what, I'm going to give you credit, so I'm going to put this out because this is what you stated during your opening to the conference. The difference of change management to change leadership. Right. Change leadership I think is what we're looking for now or transformational leaders, they have to want to understand and they will, as a transformational leader, they will understand that there is a need to make an adjustment. Now, depending on the environment, the adjustment may not be drastic. In other environments, it may be like a 360, right? They then have to start taking time to at least understand or demystify the technologies that are coming into their world. AI is probably one of the most scariest words, two letters you can tell someone because we've seen different versions of they'll take away the human aspect, but there are products that we use today that are based on AI, and no one tells you that, but you start to really think about how do we get to this certain point?

I mean, look at Google, and I'm not picking on Google, but they use AI. They've been using it for a while. But think about this. If you or me, we say, "Okay, we're looking for a pair of shoes, a pair of brown shoes. Just say, let me Google this." Right? Suddenly you get shoe ads all over the place, right? And you get shoe ads almost to the type of shoe you're looking for, right? It is using that machine learning. We don't think twice about that. It might make us more agitated. How do they do this? But we're not saying, "Oh my God, they're taking over the world." Right? It happens all the time, and you have different platforms that are coming along to offset that. Leaders have to start looking at this as a positive because it's not changing, and they have to then embrace enough to feel comfortable. So if they're using ChatGPT, use it in a way that you feel comfortable, learn how it works, then learn the other AI tools out there and use it to be comfortable.

So if you want to write a note, let me try ChatGPT to write a note. Let me see how it works. Once you start to get that, I would say interest, right? To get your foot in the water, just see if it's cool, if it's warm, if it's comfortable, you're more apt to put your foot in the water and then finally immerse yourself in it. It's like putting your foot in the ocean. When you first step in, it's cold. Stay there long enough, you get comfortable. Next thing you know, you're walking further and further out. Same thing that a leader has to do. It's across the board. If some are doing a really good job of embracing it, others are, "I don't know." And then others are saying, no, but it's a tidal wave that's coming, a tsunami that's coming, and it's coming a whole lot faster than what we're really anticipating. So the faster people get comfortable getting their foot in the water, I think then you'll start to see transformational leaders help their teams to adjust because they've adjusted.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. You're not going to stay dry, so suit up.

Dr. John Chrisentary: No.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay, good points. I think here's the thing. You talked about the fact that at the Hilton Head event, it was AI this, AI that AI everything, right? And I think there's a lot of ambiguity right now around the term, and I think that's one of the challenges, right? To your point, there are ways that AI is already being used in service organizations today and has been, and it just hasn't been referred to in a buzzword type of way, right? Then there are very ready and practical ways that companies could be adopting it today, and then there's a whole future coming that we really can't be certain of, right?

Dr. John Chrisentary: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: And so, to me, I think one of the biggest roles of a transformational leader when it comes to AI specifically is to not shy away from the fact that that tsunami is coming, right? And not be fearful of leveraging the attributes of the technology that can help the business, but also to protect the irreplaceable role of the human skillset, right? So figuring out how that puzzle works together in a way that accomplishes what customers need, right? Because we've heard many stories of companies that have gone too far in the direction of automation and have felt the effect of that because they've taken away from the human element that is essential really to service. So what are your thoughts, I guess, on things that they should be thinking about to strike that right balance?

Dr. John Chrisentary: I think we have to look at the demographics of our customer base. If you're looking at the baby boomers, the Gen Zs, the millennials, and Gen Xers, what percentage of your install based... Let's stick to baby boomers who are less likely to really embrace the technology as it's changing. How do you address issues with them? How do you make them comfortable? And this is where that human touch is required because that is something they've expected. If you could talk to a millennial, "Hey." They can get around it because technically savvy, and then if you get into a Gen X or Gen Z, it's not as prevalent as a problem for the baby boomer.

So if you start to customize a way to integrate your processes to address your customer base, knowing it's moving away from the baby boomer environment into the Gen Zs, Gen Xs, and millennials, then you still have that personal touch, I believe, and there's a vendor I deal with, not calling names, but they've used AI as their way of dealing with you, and it's the worst system. If you have a problem, you're literally in the queue for 20 minutes, and I'm savvy on how to work through the process. It still takes me 20 minutes to get to a person. Suppose someone's not, they'll get totally frustrated and not want to use their products. So now you have customer disloyalty to your brand basically. Not that the brand is bad, the service is bad, and so let's... Talking about as generating your revenue, that's a different topic, but it all falls in line and service is very critical.

If you are looking at technologies as ways to bridge the gulf between those that used to having that personal touch in a way to maximize the AI, cloud, virtual reality process, then you should start with the human factor and add tools that will help transition your customers over. This is where that transformational leader is really essential in sitting down of the C-suite to explain the need and also the benefit. There's a huge cost to make these changes and there's a paradigm shift, a cultural paradigm shift for an organization, but that transformational leader will be the catalyst to say, "This is the roadmap to success." So one, 30% of our custom base is baby boomers or how do we migrate them? We need to still have the personal touch, but how do we make our systems open to that person but not starting to shy away from the other generational needs as we're looking at Gen X and Gen Z, and then millennials and build it out that way?

So there is a way to contact me and talk to a live person. There's another way to use a QR code and it links to your landing page on your website, which directs it to a person. There is the AI component that will give you your commonly asked questions and answer those for you, or even give you the voice of prompts because it's assigned to these particular skill sets within your AI module. Each one then provides this level of service that the generational ways of communicating are there. Is it costly in the upfront? Yes. Long-term, no, because now it's going to adjust with your audience. So as you're moving into newer technologies, they will start to become accustomed because you can add components into what their regular world is that allows them to move into the new technology that you're looking for, especially from an AI perspective.

So it's coming with that strategy of developing what fits your current install base, looking at the different generational needs, and then starting to come up with ways. Phase two, moves this component a little further into the AI side. Phase three, we take the human factor of having them answer where say, 40%, we might be down to 20% because mow we're seeing people are using our QR codes and things of that nature. It becomes a definite business strategy that is long-term, it's like a five-year plan to get your customers to ride this new technology or this new way of communicating with me so that everyone's aligned versus just stating, "We're going to change everything on January one and you're going to lose your install base because you didn't think about the generational needs." It's more strategic mindset of that transformational leader, and once again, they're the persons, he or she that goes to the C-suite and explains this logically with evidence. It is out there already how to move your organization from where it is to it will need to be in five years.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So I think one of the things that I think is interesting is let's say maybe it's the opposite of the leader who is not wanting to dip their toe in, right? I think another risk is for a leader to hope that these technologies can do the work for them, right? So they hope that they can put X, Y, Z in place to solve this huge problem, and that will be that. Maybe even that will take the onus off them to really embrace this transformational leadership, right? But in reality, it is just a tool, right? So what is the words of caution in terms of realizing that whatever tools are in your toolbox, you still have to do the work as the transformational leader?

Dr. John Chrisentary: I like to use analogies, so follow me on this. Every year in the fall, before COVID, and not even this year, we go into what's called flu season, right? And they advise everyone to go out and get a flu shot, right? And there's a percentage of people who get flu shots who feel that if they get the shot, they'll get the flu. There's another percentage that feel if they get the shot, they won't get the flu. And then you have a percentage that says, if I get the shot, it will give me the tools to minimize getting the flu. Right.

To your question, leaders fall into those three categories. Will the technology fix it for me? Others will say, "I need to do some work with the technologies for it to be effective," and others say, "It is not going to even happen. Very similar to the flu shot." I always look at it's human nature of when we're looking at leaders, we have to create or have to understand what is important to them. So if we look at the components of a transformational leader, we gave some of the traits, this idealized intelligence, which is the behaviors and also the attributes. We're talking about inspirational motivation and the intellectual stimulation. We did not talk a lot about that. All of these traits, if a leader has them, they're going to be in the middle ground where they're saying, "We'll use the technology to help us." If they hold some of these, say two of these traits, they may be on the fence of, "This will fix my world." If they have one of the traits, they're going to say, "This is not going to work at all."

So it's getting people to be more aligned with all of the traits, not just say I'm a transformational leader, but to actually live and breathe that mindset, to understand that people want to do a good job if you give them an opportunity, and technology is a tool to make you effective. It is not a silver bullet to make your organization or even your position Kevlar enforced. It doesn't work that way. You're using these tools to make your organization the best it can be, and you're providing opportunities for people to learn to master the tools. It's like another analogy. You buy something from IKEA and you get the schematics, it has like 400 parts to it, and they tell you you only need a screwdriver. And you say, "Okay, I'm going to do this with a screwdriver." And you don't have a lot of wrist strength to tighten each one of the screws, but someone else says, "Hey, I'll use my drill," and do the same work because they understand how to use the drill. They've been taught.

They have a skill, not a master skill, but they understand how to use that drill. They make that job easier. Now, it sounds like this, John, that's kind of bland how you explain that, but I want you to think about it. Watch someone who is not proficient with a tool at all trying to put something together versus someone else saying, "I'll just grab this drill and I'll make the adjustments as I need to and how fast they can build it." This is what we're talking about, these leaders. If a leader is not embracing being a transformational leader, 100%, they're going to pick up the screwdriver because that's what's provided to them, and then they get frustrated in trying to put this thing together. Whereas another leader who is a transformational leader understands, "I have a better way of doing it. I'll still meet the objectives. I might need some help. Let me start to help get some people and advise me sometimes on how to do a really good job."

The burden doesn't fall just on a leader, it becomes part of the corporate or the organizational mindset of solutions are built from one, not just the top, but from the bottom up. This is where that transformation leader really becomes beneficial because they find ways to make that complicated process and simplify it. So it's still using technology as a tool and not as a burden.

Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. Okay. So if you think about what we've talked about today and then what might be next in terms of this evolution of technological capabilities, human soft skills, leadership, et cetera, what are your closing thoughts on what people need to keep in mind and be thinking of as we move ahead?

Dr. John Chrisentary: One, we're talking this topic of transformational leadership, like you can turn the switch and you'll be one in 24 hours. The answer is not. The answer is no, actually. The answer is you're going to have to work on this. Giving up your power, and now I'm going back to a transactional leader, your power of influencing a situation, creating that basically yes or no scenario, do this and you get that. It's hard, really hard for people to start to give the perceived power to a person. Understanding that we are better as a team when everyone has the skills, when more than one person knows how to do the things we need done and that everyone is going to learn at a different clip, some people are going to have a really great understanding of it and then use that to create the expertise that you need and others are going to be in the middle of the road. That leader then starts to see the value of making sure the community understands that because we're in this dynamic environment, it's going to cause a leader to either become or slowly become obsolete.

Now, I'm not saying it's going to happen in two years, five years, but at the rate we're going, people are going to start to feel it, and I'll tell you how you can tell. Can you adjust to change? Does it hurt you? Do you really go, "Oh, I hate this." Or is it what you feel is the norm? Right?

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm.

Dr. John Chrisentary: If you feel it's the norm, you're going to move very quickly with the change. If you are those that state, "I just don't like change. I want things the way they are," you create your own obsolescence. And the problem is when you go back looking into other opportunities of employment, the things that we're talking about are... You'll see this on all the job boards. They're looking for transformational leaders. People who can drive an organization, influence an organization, create positive change in the organization, these are in job descriptions now. Organizations are currently looking for and not quantifying it as a transformational leader. So if someone doesn't see this as a value in a few years, it's going to be a problem for them. And those that embrace it, I believe it creates the longevity for the leader, but it also creates the positive impact for an organization, which then allows the company to be successful.

When I wrote my dissertation on this in 2013, it was linked to communities of practice and way before COVID about the virtual communities of practice. But the idea of leadership is not something that's new that I created. This has been really talked about since 1964 really put into this transformational mindset in the '90s and now is a way that leaders are looking at how to move an organization. So if it's not the train that people want to ride, you will come to a stop where you're not going to be able to go any further because it requires that mindset of really wanting to influence people in a positive way and knowing that and doing so, you then have a greater impact to the business and you become a great leader. Matter of fact, you'll want your people to grow up in the organization, move on to other opportunities that really then shows your level of leadership versus you're the only one who's in charge and no one grows under you. You have a stagnant organization.

Sarah Nicastro: I agree. And it's interesting being able to talk to different people in different industries, different areas of the world on this podcast week to week, you can see the change taking place, right? So I agree 1000% that it's the writing's on the wall, right? And it's just a matter of folks deciding whether or not they're willing and able to adjust. So really good. Well, Dr. John, thank you so much-

Dr. John Chrisentary: Well, thank you.

Sarah Nicastro: ... for coming to share your insights with us. I really appreciate it.

Dr. John Chrisentary: No, this has been fantastic. Thank you for having me.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, it was a pleasure.

Dr. John Chrisentary: All right.

Sarah Nicastro: You can find more by visiting us at While you're there, be sure to sign up for the Future of Field Service Insiders so you get an email every other week with the latest content. We also have one more live tour event in 2023. That event is in Stockholm on October 10th. So if you're in the area, registered to join us for a great day of insight and discussion. The Future of Field Service Podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening.