The Secret to Transformational Leadership

How are some leaders able to connect with their communities, followers, and stakeholders while others struggle? This guiding question sets the stage for a discussion on the language of leadership and the need for our language to evolve.

The Secret to Transformational Leadership book

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What Readers Say About the Book

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Learn to lead with compassion

If recent times have taught us anything, it’s that there has never been a greater need for empathy and the ability to communicate it, whether that be at work, at home or in the classroom. Dr. Quintin Shepherd’s new book gifts us with both a stunningly simple solution —learn to lead with compassion—and a powerful framework for effectively doing so. I highly recommend The Secret to Transformational Leadership as must-reading for all aspiring and current leaders in the new era.”
—Jeff Sklar
Senior Strategic Advisor to CEOs, Investment Firm Managing Director, Harvard MBA


A must-have blueprint for anyone running an organization or company

In The Secret of Transformational Leadership, author Quintin Shepherd with Sarah Williamson first compellingly correlate, and then intuitively decode, the power of language and its role in becoming an effective leader. The book serves as both an introspective guide as well as an important philosophical grounding for those in leadership positions as well as future leaders. Of particular import are the book’s key framing of a new leadership paradigm and concomitant framework—with essential building blocks that include becoming a compassionate leader, leading from the middle, and embracing and provoking the collective ethos and wisdom of your organization. A must-have blueprint for anyone running an organization or company!
—Evan St. Lifer
CEO, InnovateK12


This is a must read for educators—and beyond

This is a must read for educators—and beyond—to consider a new language of leadership in a world that needs compassion now more than ever.
—Susan Enfield
Superintendent, Highline Public Schools


Every change requires an accelerant

Dr. Quintin Shepherd's humility draws us in, sharpens our focus, and opens our eyes to how our words impact those around us. Every change requires an accelerant—and Quintin kindles the flame inside every leader who wants to be the difference.
—Rod Berger


Unique and thought-provacative

In my view, Quintin and Sarah's book is unique and thought-provocative in a crowd of lookalike-themed leadership books.
—Ron Klausner
CEO, Graduation Alliance

About the Authors

Quintin Shepherd

Quintin Shepherd

Superintendent, Victoria Independent School District

Dr. Quintin Shepherd, a true visionary for the future of education, is the Superintendent at Victoria Independent School District in Victoria, Texas. He focuses on the practice of compassionate leadership and expressing vulnerability, and he believes that’s why radical transparency works.

Quintin brings inspiration, hope and valuable insights about how we can transform the way we lead school districts by modifying our approach to some of the most basic leadership practices.

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Sarah Williamson

Principal, SWPR Group

Sarah Williamson has more than 15 years of experience creating and implementing strategic public relation programs for education organizations, helping clients secure results that make an impact. Most recently, Sarah has worked with countless leaders in education to create thoughtful public relations programs that promote growth, build momentum, and, ultimately, enhance learners’ academic success and overall well-being. She is the host of Build Momentum, a podcast dedicated to sharing effective PR strategies for education. And when she is not running the agency, Sarah tries to keep up with her husband and three young boys on camping adventures all over the West.

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Inside the book

How are some leaders able to connect with their communities, followers, and stakeholders while others struggle? This guiding question sets the stage for a discussion on the language of leadership and the need for our language to evolve.

Chapter 1

Leadership is framed as either competent or compassionate. Competence-based leadership is a language that hearkens judgement and evaluation. It allows leaders to be rated good or bad. Competence is juxtaposed against compassionate leadership, which is defined as “to suffer with.” Compassionate leadership allows society to suspend judgement and instead find common ground.

Chapter 2

This chapter builds on the first. Competence leadership becomes a path to evaluation and excuses. Excuses largely put leaders and followers inside a box which prevents them from establishing a shared future. Compassionate leadership allows for explanations. Starting with suffering allows the leader to connect with the suffering of others and draw out explanations.

Chapter 3

Competence leadership language requires accountability. This is how we judge and grade the leadership. Empowering stakeholders is shifting from accountability to responsibility and the need for accountability begins to wash away. This allows us to think differently about feedback and opens the door to feed-forward.

Chapter 4

The first three chapters are building a case for the leader to establish deep relationships with followers and stakeholders. We have traditionally taught these in schools as “soft skills.” Chapter
4 asks us to reframe these as “power skills” as they are indeed the differentiator in present leadership culture.

Chapter 5

With this new language and new frame from which to think about leadership, readers are encouraged to reframe the conversation around a work/life balance. This language hearkens back
to competence-based leadership, putting work before life. Simply reframing to life/work balance is a leadership language based in compassion. This has profound implications for work culture, policy, and governance.

Chapter 6

The previous chapters in totality can now be pulled into leadership decision-making. Competence leadership tends to see all problems as complicated. Complicated problems have one right answer. The world has largely become complex, especially in the public sphere. Using competence language when dealing with complex problems (things that are inherently unknowable) confuses stakeholders and followers. The language confusion creates a venue for leadership decisions to be scrutinized in ways we’ve not seen before. The shift to complex problem-solving means starting not with an answer, but with a question.

Chapter 7

Competence leadership creates culture and policy around hierarchies. These hierarchies are still important for the complicated work that happens in most organizations, but the world has evolved with the ubiquitous availability of information. Hierarchies are all about power dynamics. Opposite of hierarchies are networks. Networks eschew traditional power dynamics. When leaders use the same language to talk about hierarchies and networks, we confuse organizations, followers, and stakeholders.

Chapter 8

The leader must embrace a movement away from openness, which tends to only happen when the leader chooses to be open. The compassionate leader recognizes the public no longer wants
openness, but radical transparency, which is defined as unprecedented access to both people and information.

Chapter 9

The previous eight chapters allow for a culminating move away from the word engagement and toward authentic ownership for decision-making. This chapter builds on the work of many others who have written in this space, but none have focused solely on the language of leadership around openness and compassion.

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Get The Secret to Transformational Leadership from Your Favorite Booksellers

buy book from barnes & noble

Transformational Leadership in Practice

Since the book’s release in mid-2022, a growing community of education leaders has been referencing it as they take the next steps in their compassionate leadership journeys. We’re excited to offer an addition resource for this learning! Through a partnership with K12Leaders, Quintin and Sarah have developed a self-paced online book study course that offers deeper insights into each chapter’s theme.  
The course is delivered in 9 lessons that correspond to the chapters. They contain videos, summary points, examples from school districts, supplemental materials, and an opportunity for guided self-reflection through specific prompts. 

To learn more about this book study, visit the K12Leaderssite and sign up for a free account.

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Institutional and Group Purchases

Reach out to us today if you are interested in a group purchase order of the book and/or course for your school district, organization, or institution. We would love to work together with you to ensure everyone on your team has access to The Secret to Transformational Leadership.

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