Over the years, we have all led change initiatives, yet few of us have encountered what we are experiencing today. In many cases, we need something more than just managing change within our yards.

Dr. Jim Harris Webster's New World Dictionary defines "transform" as "to change the form, appearance, nature, or function of." Effective leaders perpetually challenge themselves and those around them, not on whether they need to change but rather on how radically they need to change. As do the best CEOs in other tough industries, LBM leaders understand that in today's ultra-competitive marketplace, mere change may not be enough to even survive.

So where does transformational leadership begin? The first step is to understand that you cannot manage a transformation, you must lead one. Managing is about systems, and processes, and reports. Transformational leadership is about the future, the new, and the unique.

Managing implies doing something better, faster, or more efficiently. Leading implies doing something completely new, different, and challenging. You cannot manage your yard into a better future from behind your desk. You must be out in front, leading the charge.

Transformational leaders must have both the willingness and the ability to create change, not just react to it. Willingness suggests a high motivation to want to change. Ability suggests having the skills and knowledge to make the changes work.

A few years ago, I visited the headquarters of The Home Depot during its heyday. I had the pleasure of meeting Bernie Marcus, the co-founder who was then serving as CEO. During his tenure, Marcus had hanging on his wall a large painting of a Western cowboy scene. In the scene were cowboys riding off into the sunset, their horses creating a large cloud of dust. The caption under the picture read, "Either you create dust or you eat dust." Transformational leaders create the dust that their competitors must eat.

Here are three questions to help you think about transforming your current operations.

1. What new, unique, or innovative goals would I love us to accomplish this year? Transformational leaders force themselves to think and dream in new, previously unexplored areas. This will push you to go beyond merely redesigning your today into inventing your tomorrow. For example, you may desire to transform your managers into great coaches, which would increase teamwork, internal communications, and accomplish goals.

2. How do we accomplish this? This question makes you think beyond mere skill sets and about what your team must transform themselves into to reach the goal. In the above example, your people might need to become competent communicators, great listeners, and articulate knowledge sources. By focusing on what they need to become, you quickly see new avenues of personal and professional growth.

3. How must I lead them to get there? Now comes what you must do to lead your team there–wherever there is. In my coaching and leadership development programs, I focus on three essential elements: to envision, to engage, and to execute.

Here is a great example: When Bill Gates finally understood the significance of the Internet, he transformed everyone's focus at Microsoft by beginning every conversation for six straight months with, "What does this have to do with the Internet?" Very quickly, he led his company into evaluating everything through a new lens–the lens of the Internet.

Now, get out a clean sheet of paper and answer these questions for your yard or team. Let you imagination go. Ask your colleagues to do the same. Use these simple yet probing questions to jump-start your journey toward transformational leadership.

–Dr. Jim Harris is president of The Jim Harris Group, a Pensacola, Fla.?based leadership and management consulting firm.
E-mail: jim@drjimharris.com