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9 Steps to Being a Change Leader


Standout leaders are proactively adaptive who thirst for change.

They drive change as opposed to letting change drive them.

They enthusiastically embrace the change process and treat it as an opportunity for the organization and themselves as opposed to treating change as a threat and something that can be avoided.

They are good at anticipating how things will unfold but are brilliant reaction agents, reacting to an unforeseen event when it occurs. When Plan A is in jeopardy they move to Plan B in a heartbeat.

They are Change Leaders, as opposed to their more traditional organizational cousin, the Change Manager.

Change Managers want to perpetuate the momentum of the business, and reluctantly move into the change mode when the forces on them leave no other option.

The Change Manager isn’t GREAT at reacting; they are limp reaction agents, reluctant to change and get dragged into it kicking and screaming with the real motive to keep the status quo for as long as possible.

They act from the belief that change can be affected in a controlled and organized fashion and tend to look to incremental improvements to address the challenges of the day. Change Managers are students of the softer more evolutionary methods of organizational change. 
Incremental thinkers drive incremental change which often falls short of what is required.

Don’t look to Change Managers to be proactive and initiate required changes in your organization; to have an adrenalin-rushed reaction to move in a different direction as a result of unanticipated events.

They simply will not do it. And don’t look for an out of the box alternative to the current way of operating your business; they will always be governed at best by modest incremental changes to the current operating model.

Change Leaders, on the other hand, understand that real change with breakthrough benefits for the organization is the result of introducing discontinuities to the current business model.

They are proactive and are constantly on the lookout for operating models for running the business so that revolutionary break-through changes can be achieved. And in the face of unexpected events challenging the performance of their organization, expect Change Leaders to enthusiastically react with a sense of urgency to determine the appropriate life-saving course of action to take.

Change Leaders will present your organization with tough decisions because their proposals will require taking higher risks to yield greater rewards. Expect them to make your organization uncomfortable with the inherent risks associated with the order of magnitude changes they bring forward.

You must develop a plan to be a Change Leader; it won’t happen by serendipity. You will discover that most of your colleagues will fall into the change manager category and that differentiating yourself is very achievable and will get you the kind of currency in your organization that will highlight you for future opportunities.

These 9 steps will help you be a change leader.

  1. Use your personal network to discover the most critical issues the organization is facing. You can’t lead change unless you have an intimate understanding of the threats and opportunities likely to impact your business future.
  2. Focus on the critical few things that will deliver the maximum number of benefits to the organization. Beware of the long action plan list; you have neither the time nor the energy to do ten or twelve things really well nor will they be equally important in terms of the positive impact they produce. 
    Look for 20% of the actions – your critical few list – that will deliver 80% of the needed results and get going.
    The long action plan list – pursuing numerous tactics – is a symptom of sloppy strategic thinking: a lack of appreciating the few actions required to produce the greatest impact. 
    Chasing numerous tactics may make you feel good about how busy you are, but it can be deadly in terms of achieving real progress. 
  3. Be anal about executing your top priorities. Don’t get mesmerized by the brilliance of your idea; it’s worthless until you do something about it and achieve positive results.
  4. Take on a let’s do it differently attitude and way of working. Avoid linear thinking. Be a lateral thinker and look for out-of-the-box solutions to problems in the organization.
  5. Purge your vocabulary of words like evolutionary change and incremental change in favor of breakthrough and revolutionary change.
  6. Get on the internal speaking circuit. Talk up the importance of creating discontinuity for your organization as the way to meet the challenges your organization is facing and generate economic opportunity.
  7. Increase your depth and breadth of experience and expertise. Look for job opportunities throughout the organization; don’t get pigeonholed in one specialist role.
  8. Read insatiably, and develop a portfolio of new concepts and ideas that could be applied to solve your pressing business problems or lead your organization in new directions.
  9. Seek out others in the organization others who aspire to be Change Leaders. Encourage them. Mentor them. Support them in their day to day activities. And be seen to be doing it.
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