Leadership is a Contact Sport: A Lesson in Transformational Leadership


A monthly leadership blog, courtesy of and authored by Phil Henderson.

“Leadership is a contact sport.” I remember hearing that from a respected manufacturing executive in the late 2000s. Believe me, those five words can change paradigms. In the context of the moment, everyone in the meeting clearly understood why he chose that moment and those five words; we were in the middle of a large acquisition – two companies in the exact same industry with two very different cultures.

Leaders had to bring cultural clarity to the new company. They had to articulate the collective expected and accepted actions, activities, and behaviors of everyone in the organization from the CEO to all leaders and employees – in essence, the value system and culture of the company.

Trenton Forging isn’t involved in an acquisition, but David Moxlow (owner & CEO) is changing Trenton Forging’s culture. He understands that any significant change effort, to be successful, begins with leaders not only supporting change, but leading change. Change of this magnitude requires all leaders in the organization “leading at all times” [John Kotter – a foremost expert in change management and author of the best-selling book Leading Change].

David and his team are putting into practice the following definition of leadership: “Creating an air of confidence in people or groups of people which inspires them to realize their fullest potential or achieve a common goal.” Trenton Forging is working toward changing leader behavior from purely transactional (do the following and receive the following) and sometimes directive (do the following) to transformational, where the purpose is to inspire, motivate, stimulate, and positively influence others, thus creating a more capable organization.

Transactional leadership is often referred to as ‘leadership for today,’ and there are moments when it’s appropriate. Transformational leadership is ‘leadership for tomorrow.’

The forward-moving organization values historical accomplishment but recognizes excellence is only achieved by standing in the future. Trenton Forging is recognized today as an industry leader in design capabilities and speed to market – a distinction that differentiates it from competitors. Retaining that distinction requires practicing leadership as a contact sport, which is transformational leadership.


leadership; Phil HendersonPhil Henderson is a former Regional VP of Manufacturing Operations at Harland Clarke Holdings. He is as a Designer of Self-Directed, Team-Based Work Systems in multiple manufacturing environments over the course of 26 years. He served 8 years as an Air Traffic Controller and Officer in the US Army, and with distinction as a Captain in the First Gulf War. He currently provides leadership development and self-directed work team design assistance to Trenton Forging. For inquiries, Phil may be reached at (210) 316-3212 or at pizzobe@yahoo.com