‘The only thing constant in life is change’. This is as pervasive a cliché as ‘hold on, change is coming’ but the veracity and relevance of both within the contexts of leadership and management cannot be denied.
Leaders and managers face a cornucopia of potential challenges on a daily basis – from human resources to financial to technical through to competition and quite frankly, the barrage of ‘issues’ can be seemingly never-ending. However, at its core, each challenge effectively underscores the presence and impact of change and this is something that each leader must not only seek to understand but even learn to appreciate.
I acknowledge though that there are many who abhor change; if it was totally up to them, nothing would change. They like to be in full control, they do not like uncertainty and they do not like things going in any way other than that to which they have become accustomed. There are others who can stomach change but only in small quantities and preferably when they have been fully apprised of how the change will impact them – no surprises! Unfortunately for persons with these perspectives, the realities of leadership (and life itself), where change is practically the order of the day, offer little comfort and peace of mind. After all, we live in the 21st century where rapid changes are taking place in almost every industry and leaders are the ones who are often charged with the responsibility of navigating their governments, companies and even households through such environments.
So critical is this ability that the discipline of Change Management has emerged within the landscape of business management. Change Management speaks to the process of preparing and equipping individuals and organizations to successfully embrace change in an effort to reach intended outcomes. In other words, it seeks to transform the organization’s view of change from being one of avoidance or even ‘stomaching’ it, to one of preparing for and accepting it as necessary for the survival and, indeed, the development of the organization.
Effective leaders must not ‘stomach’ change – rather, they must become champions of change within their environments.
To be a champion of change within your environment, you understand that you must set the pace for change. Accordingly, it commences with you having a positive view of change. The leader who intentionally seeks out change that can potentially lead to the success of the Organization or group that he or she leads, will not only be demonstrating the proactivity needed for effectiveness in leadership, but he or she will also be setting the tone for Organization-wide acceptance of change. Our people are constantly watching us and they practically feed off of our energy and views relative to matters within the Organization. If they recognise that we are not fully ‘sold’ on the proposed change, we will find tremendous difficulty in being able to get them to ‘buy’ into it and this will have a negative impact on the smooth and successful implementation of the change.
To be a champion of change, you understand that you must seek to include everyone at all levels of the Organization. There was a time where changes which occurred in one department or unit within an Organization could have little to no impact on the rest of the Organization. However, in the current context, the 21st century leader is often times tasked with the responsibility of implementing Organization-wide change programmes which call for a re-aligning of both individual and departmental activities and even perspectives towards a new reality.
In this regard, the most impactful tools available to a leader will be having a clear vision and being able to effectively communicate it to others. Where the vision of the intended outcomes of the proposed change is shared effectively across the length and breadth of the country, Organization or home, the individual members of the group will have a stronger sense of ownership and will generally make greater efforts to support the initiatives.
Finally, to be a champion of change, a leader must be steadfast and consistent in the movement towards the desired results. All change initiatives do not go exactly as planned – remember the last time you sought to change your diet and/or embark on an exercise programme? The first two weeks usually go pretty well and you even start to notice some improvements and achieve some results. But then, you realise that it takes a consistent effort to stick to the diet or to get to the gym each day and there are some days where you simply do not feel like making such efforts.
It is the same for changes across all spheres – leaders must be steadfast in the face of any challenges which come up during the change process and they have to consistently push ahead even when they feel as if the process is not yielding the results desired at the pace required.
Leaders champion change and when they do, our country, our Organizations and even our family units benefit tremendously. Those leaders who resist change do a disservice to those who follow them as it opens up the entity to becoming rigid and irrelevant in the face of a rapidly changing environment.
We must have a positive attitude towards change and set the pace relative to its implementation, we must effectively and widely communicate with our people so that they can see the vision resulting from the changes, and we must stick to the programme even in the face of setbacks or slow progress.
Be a champion of change today!
(Davidson Ishmael holds a MBA in Leadership and Innovation and is an operations manager in the financial services sector.