Traits of Effective Change Leaders

'Facilitating Effective Change' by Patrick Love (ISBN 1505402387) Leaders invest remarkable talent, energy, and caring in their change efforts, yet few see the desired results. There is a good reason. Today’s leaders simply do not have much practice at large-scale change. Few organizations were doing sweeping reinvention 30 years ago, so there is little experience to pass on. The changes undertaken today—producing better products, faster, at lower cost—were inconceivable 30 years ago. Over the next decade, leaders will guide remarkable changes. That is a social and economic imperative.

Leaders exist at all levels. At the edges of the business enterprise, needless to say, leaders are responsible for less territory. Their vision may sound more simple; the number of people to motivate may be few. However, they perform the same role in leading change.

  • They outshine at seeing things through fresh eyes and at challenging the status quo.
  • They are energetic and pervade through, or around, obstacles.
  • People who provide great leadership are also deeply interested in a cause or discipline related to their focus area.
  • Such change leaders also tap deep convictions of others and connect those feelings to the purpose; they show the meaning of people’s work to that larger purpose.
  • The most prominent trait of great leaders is their quest for learning. They push themselves out of their comfort zones and continue to take risks.
  • They are open to people and ideas. Often they are driven by goals or ideals that are bigger than what any individual can pull off, and that gap pushes them to keep learning.

The single biggest impetus for change tends to be a new manager in a key job. It is often a new division-level manager or a new department head—someone with fresh perspective—that sees that the status quo is unacceptable. Producing change is about 80 percent leadership—establishing direction, aligning, motivating, and inspiring people—and about 20 percent management—planning, budgeting, organizing, and problem solving. Regrettably, in most change efforts, those percentages are reversed. We continue to produce great managers; we need to develop great leaders.

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