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 a few key elements that underpin the success of a change leader.
Resilience. The ability to bounce back, or just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on are traits not often spoken of, yet I believe they are the most critical. Things will go wrong. You will make mistakes. You will make people mad, and they will let you know it. It is a reality of change management and leading people through times of evolution and revolution. If you are easily stressed, find it difficult to cope or want to continually please everyone, then either get out now, or look to strengthen this aspect of yourself.
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 uncanny ability and it is what underpins their performance. Make time each day to reflect on the strategic elements of the project, whilst ensuring that the administrative and political 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.
Rest and Reflect. Whilst the above two points are fairly obvious, this point is often discounted or not even regarded. Yet 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 energy in the people you are leading. 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. Play a game on your iPad or Xbox, or read a good book. 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, and outstanding, leaders of change. I'd be interested to hear what else you think are considered key traits of change leaders, so feel free to leave a comment.