The Missing Piece:
Leader Activation Drives Transformation
Written by: Julie Williamson, PhD
Estimated reading time: 3:12 minutes
Too many leaders today treat change as something other people need to do. But senior leaders can’t leave it up to their teams to transform while they are busy doing more important things. This reduces them to being a conduit for email messages and town hall talking points drafted by others on their behalf rather than being active and energized leaders of transformation.
Through my work with Karrikins Group, I’ve engaged with hundreds of senior leaders who are fully committed to transforming their organizations.
Despite their best intentions, they fall into the trap of failing to lead by example and making their efforts to change visible to others. They insist they are “all in” and willing to do whatever is needed to support the transformation. Indeed, they dutifully push forward on all the emails and hit all the talking points they are provided. They encourage their people, approve training time and expenses, give recognition awards—all the things.
The one thing they don’t do is work on changing themselves, and that makes all the difference.
If an organization is truly going to transform, it can’t continue to be led in the same way it has always been led. Transformation requires senior leaders to change how they lead. While they may not need hands-on training, they do need to understand and drive to new metrics, ask different questions and tune into issues to successfully lead in the desired future state.
There are a few reasons I’ve seen the lack of leadership activation impacting transformation.
1. Leaders agree that other people need to change but aren’t so keen on spending the time and effort to change themselves. This is often because they have a deeply held belief that their leadership style, approach and abilities are just fine.
2. Leaders continue to be held to old metrics and expectations by the board or other senior leaders, so they aren’t incented to change how they are leading.
3. Leaders have spent months talking about the transformation, so their level of clarity regarding the future state is high, and they assume everyone else can get to that level of clarity through bullet points instead of conversation.
If you are struggling with this in your organization, there are a few things you can do to move leaders from passive support to activated leadership during transformation. First, encourage leaders to share what is changing for them with their teams. Make sure they know how to connect the dots between new leadership behaviors and the more tactical changes happening deeper in the company. Give them discussion guides to help them host great conversations instead of bullet points to hit. And most of all, make sure they aren’t just agreeing that transformation is needed. Hold them accountable to aligning to the future state and create ways for them to visibly commit to activating new ways of leading.
Keep in mind that if leaders don’t need to change how they are leading, they probably aren’t transforming their organizations.
Learning how to lead differently is something they can make visible to the rest of the organization to inspire energy and commitment to change at all levels. Continuing to lead the same way they always have will slow down transformation and deliver sub-optimal results.
At Karrikins Group, we say that “nothing changes until someone changes, and that someone is probably you.” Activating leaders to demonstrate commitment by visibly investing time and effort in changing themselves will accelerate results and energize transformation.
Original Article Featured on Forbes: The Missing Piece: Leader Activation Drives Transformation
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