I am often asked what I believe are the key traits that underpin an effective change leader. Having been involved in change in the capacities of a people leader, a leader of change and a contributor to change, I've come to believe that there are three key elements that underpin the success of a change leader.
Strategic and Tactical Ambidexterity. The ability to work simultaneously in a strategic and tactical capacity will bode you well in leading change, or as a leader in general. The ability to keep an eye on the true north of the project whilst managing the day to day politics and project needs is a skill that not everyone possesses. However the best leaders have this desirable ability and it's what underpins their performance. Make time each day to reflect on the strategic elements of the project, whilst ensuring that factors like the administrative elements of the project are managed in the context of the project scope. Don't be blind to the politics of the project, and at the same time don't engage in games to do with the politics. In that one sentence you have a golden key to relationships success in the change project.
Don't Be a People Pleaser. Things will go wrong. You will make mistakes. You will make people mad, and they will let you know it. This is a reality of change management and leading people through times of transition, evolution and change. If you have a drive to please others, then you have a choice. The upside of this is that if you know you have a tendency toward being a people pleaser, you are probably able to tune in to the feel of the room, and connect with how people are feeling. Leverage this strength as it is one of the best ways to ensure people feel heard and connected with throughout change. But you need to regulate this desire and not slip into being a rescuer and spreading yourself so thin when it comes to making sure everyone is ok. When we slip into rescuer mode we discount the ability of others to deal with change which is the opposite of what we need to be doing. You won't be able to make sure everyone is ok, and in the end you will burn out. If this is you, and you are unable to keep this in check, then either get out now, or look to strengthen this aspect of yourself.
Rest and Reflect. When I look at the leaders who have inspired me, and when I look back at my own approach, I see that the ability to rest and reflect is a key attribute of a leader, especially when driving change. When leading change you need all the energy you can get, simply because you are investing a bit more energy into coordinating, directing, communicating and supporting your people. So find ways to take genuine time out reflect on the day that was, and to explore in your mind what tomorrow may be like. Take time to chill. Take your mind away from the reality of the day. We often forget that when leading people our primary tool is our brain. So give it some time out, rest it, and allow it to be at its best so that you can role model with ease and energy the new behaviours every day.
So there you have it, my key traits that underpin effective leaders of change. Of course there are many other traits as well however these are the qualities I see time and again in the more successful leaders of change.
Author: David Morley
David is a developer of global-minded leaders, teams and organisations.
Dialogue. For many people, let alone leaders, this is a scary concept. However for a leader, dialogue is often the single most important activity that can establish your credibility, solve issues, pre-empt issues before they need solving, and bring a team closer together. In a team that is already close, regular dialogue is a key contributor to maintaining high trust and engagement.
In the wider organisational context, dialogue can do all of the above and more, especially when deployed throughout significant change events.
As a leader, consultant and facilitator I have been using the power of healthy dialogue as the key medium for helping:
Outside of anything I've done, there are countless examples of really good leadership where dialogue has been the main tool. One example that comes to mind was that of a regional CEO of a global pharmaceutical company who turned his poor performing executive team and business around through the use of effective dialogue. He learned very early that his regional executive team were not connected; they were not a team. Silo's were present in his team, and this was reflected down through the organisation with poor collaboration and communication. One of his first team leadership tasks was to have the executive team meet for one hour...everyday. The purpose of the meeting was simply to talk. Sometimes there were specific topics, but mostly it was about the connection that comes with mature dialogue. In a short space of time his team went from begrudging the daily hour, to looking forward to it. This was simply due to the natural sharing, personal and professional, that occurred...everyday. Soon the silo's started to disappear, collaboration increased and natural solutions to problems started to occur. Best of all, the team started to build a rapport and momentum that was reflected down through the organisation.
So let's take a brief look at what I mean by dialogue, and some tips based on my own experiences for how you can use dialogue as an enabler of growth.
If you want to facilitate a conversation with your team that is more exploratory in nature, like solving an issue in the team, brainstorming, teaming etc... the following guidelines are critical.
My final thought with regards to dialogue relates to you; the leader. To use dialogue constructively you have to trust yourself as much as your team. Why? Because the agenda is unknown, and driven by the group. This can be seen as giving up the 'power' that comes with being a leader. The only thing you are controlling is the flow of conversation, and working with the energy in the room.
The risk with using this approach is potentially high, simply because it isn't what people are used to, and everyone is invited to be 'present' to the conversation in a largely non-traditional and non-structured way. And as mentioned above, the leader or facilitator, takes a slightly different approach to leading the meeting.
Having said that, the risks may be high, but so are the rewards.
Author: David Morley
David is a developer of global-minded leaders, teams and companies.