The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said the only constant in life is change. The past few years alone have supported this claim. So why encourage your team to embrace change if things are going well, revenues are good, and profits are soaring?
If organizations are going to thrive in the 21st century, leaders must learn how to train and develop a change mindset in their people. This requires understanding human behavior, identifying the obstacles, and applying the Eight Superpowers of Executive Leadership. Before we discuss the solutions, let’s define both sides of the “change” coin: change leadership versus change management.
John P. Kotter stated in his timeless book, Leading Change, “Major change is often said to be impossible unless the head of the organization is an active supporter.” What is change management, and what types of changes can occur? According to a recent Indeed Article, change management is a company’s process for implementing change smoothly within its organization. Change management is essential for organizational survival. If organizations decide to undergo major changes, it will require leadership. But what is change leadership?
Kotter also stated, “Management is a set of processes that can keep a complicated system of people and technology running smoothly. The most important aspects of management include planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling, and problem-solving. Leadership is a set of processes that creates organizations in the first place or adapts them to significantly changing circumstances. Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen despite the obstacles.” Put another way, as leaders in the 21st century, you must lead people and manage systems!
Why is change leadership more important than ever? Your people are your most important asset, and you won’t achieve much without them. To bring people from different locations and engage, encourage, and empower them to lead change within the organization across multiple sites, you must provide a sense of urgency, a shared vision, and a shared understanding. You can see more on this in my last blog on remote leadership.
Obstacles to Change Leadership
Humans are biologically wired to resist change, which can create obstacles when trying to manage change in a corporate environment. One possible obstacle is change fatigue. Training Industry stated, “In a 2015 Ketchum survey, 74% of respondents said they saw change fatigue in their organization, and 39% said it was ‘highly pervasive.’”
Lack of motivation or complacency might be obstacles as well. The “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset can run rampant in an organization trying to create change. In Kotter’s first step of change management, he states to inspire people to act – with passion and purpose – to achieve a bold, aspirational opportunity. Build momentum that excites people to pursue a compelling (and clear) vision of the future – together.
So how might 21st-century leaders mitigate the obstacles and fight resistance?
Eight Superpowers of Executive Leaders
Senior leaders need to know how to lead their organizations to achieve strategic goals. Mid-level leaders need the skills to lead their teams through change. What “superpowers” do leaders need to effect change in their organizations?
- Explain the Why. Leaders must explain the why of change and assignments. Why is this change necessary, and how does it link to the bigger strategy? Traditional managers tend to overlook the important step of explaining the why because they think it’s a waste of time to explain the bigger picture. By taking just a few minutes to explain the bigger picture, managers will not only create better results but also exhibit better leadership traits and keep their employees more engaged and motivated.
- Provide Real-Time Feedback. Leaders must be engaged with their people and seek to understand where they are mentally and emotionally. As the organization changes, ensure you have plotted points in the plan to stop, assess, analyze, and adjust as needed. As the leader, be receptive and open to the feedback you receive.
- Career Coaching. Career coaching and providing career direction were not in the toolbox of successful 20th-century leaders. Their job was to manage their team’s day-to-day activities and not necessarily look out into the future and where their employees would be ten years. Their job was to drive immediate results and let the future take care of itself. In the 21st century, a leadership superpower is helping your talent navigate their futures with career coaching and the development of the career chessboard.
- Develop Your Leadership Brand. In the 20th century, folks joined organizations and did not dig deeply into whom they worked for and what they would be working on. Today is different. You must show you are a leader who can help employees develop themselves. When it comes to change leadership, what is your brand?
- Leverage Emotional Intelligence. In contrast to general intelligence, which remains mostly stable throughout adulthood, you can increase your emotional intelligence with deliberate effort. How are you in self-awareness and self-management? How about social awareness and relationship management? How can you utilize EQ to craft a compelling vision, build alignment around the vision, and champion the execution of that vision through sustained change?
- Transparency. Perhaps the most critical quality next-generation talent desires in a strong leader is transparency. High-potential talent wants to know why they are doing what they are doing. They want to know where they fit into the organization’s bigger picture and what they have to do to keep progressing.
- Remote Leadership. How can you lead change when your team is spread to the winds? What must you do to have a shared vision, shared understanding, and a cohesive team that communicates effectively through different mediums? This concept is not going away, and 21st-century leaders must adapt to and acquire this superpower.
- Time and Energy Investment. Like the financial investment mentioned earlier, developing leaders is not an expense but an investment. You are not “expending time” when you are interacting with others. You are investing in your leadership and the development of others. Time and energy investments are essential in leading change.
Change does not happen overnight. Leadership expert John Maxwell often says, “Leadership development is done daily, not in a day.” The same goes for change. Are you leading or managing change? What obstacles are you facing regarding changes in your organization? What leadership “superpowers” do you already possess, and which ones do you need to acquire to create lasting, sustainable change to preserve your business legacy? If you’re unsure, the steps outlined above can get you started.