Change is an inevitable factor of life, and certainly of business. It is not enough for executives to be able to determine what must change, they must also have the skills to make those changes successful and sustainable. Having the ability to drive change is an integral skill that leaders must develop, as it perhaps the most challenging aspect of executive leadership. This challenge derives from the inherent duality of change management in attempting to implement new strategies while maintaining or improving productivity and success. It is therefore much more critical that leaders develop the ability to discern which to prioritise in any given situation.
Though the prevalence of change and adaptation are commonplace, most people do tend to be resistant to it. This can be challenging as a leader, whose role is often to drive change by introducing and implementing new practices. In order to succeed, great leaders must understand how their behaviour influences others. There is much commentary about the skill of change leadership versus the emotional intelligence and ability to read the play, which is more about intuition and experience, and one may argue is not just about skill development. In some cases it may be prudent to be tough and demanding, in others it may be more beneficial to be caring or show guidance. By engaging in leadership development programs, it is possible to establish an understanding of determining which approach most suits the immediate situation. In other words, teach the skills and then develop the capability and ability to read the play and act based on different scenarios. This is achieved by diversifying and expanding the types of leadership behaviours that can be utilised to accomplish goals. One set of skills for change leadership is dangerous, however, once a more well rounded skillset is developed and linked to different scenarios, we can develop a more well-rounded leader and prepare them for the complexity and diversity of situations they may encounter. Generally speaking, the less experience a leader has the more important development training. However, at the same time, often experienced leaders have developed certain ways to influence others that may be having an impact either positive or negative on your organisations culture. Bullying behaviours one extreme example of influence gone wrong!
If the extent of the changes being implemented are disruptive to most of the practices they are replacing, they will likely be met with a high level of resistance. In this instance, you may choose to adopt a process-oriented approach that features collaboration as a key element. Collaborative leadership about making each member of the team feel a part of the decision making process. When introducing new practices, it may help team members feel more comfortable with them if they are consulted on how they may be incorporated.
It may not always be appropriate to consult with individuals on every matter and, as their leader, executives hold more of the responsibility for ensuring the success of such changes. Through leadership development programs, executives learn the importance of managing their team’s capability while ensuring that the necessary changes achieve the desired success. Collaboration is all about leadership style and this is often overlooked in most mainstream leadership development programs and high performance team development initiatives.
Building Interpersonal Connections
Interpersonal relationships are integral to the cohesion of any high performance team, especially during periods of change. The stronger these relationships are, the greater the possibility for successful change management. It is possible to build a trusting relationship with members of your team through the involvement of leadership development programs. Such programs as Dare to Lead™, based on the work of Brene Brown, delve deeply into building trust in interpersonal relationships by embracing the need to display vulnerability as a leader. There is an emphasis on learning to navigate open communication. Brene has an interesting view on clear is kind and that kind is not always about being nice, but more so about being honest. We all need feedback, and honesty combined with good communication and interpersonal skills is a winning formula!
When driving change, having strong and well established interpersonal relationships means that it is more likely that your team will be able to understand the intent behind the changes. In this way, they will be motivated to contribute to the success of implementing them. There is also much truth to the thinking about debits and credits in our approach to leadership. If we have high trust and every now and then we act in ways that take away from our bank account (as is pretty normal for most of us humans!) then coming from a strong credit base is important.
Leading With Integrity
Great leaders must also be steadfast in their convictions; another concept explored in Dare to Lead™. By identifying our most important values and referring to them when faced with challenging situations or making difficult decisions, we can ensure that we are acting with integrity. When people lead with integrity and authenticity, in that they are known to adhere to their values, others will be more inclined to support their ideas.
While it is important to consider how the personal investment of individuals may be affected by certain changes, it is an executive’s role to balance this concern with those stakeholders whose priority is financially motivated. Goal-oriented leaders are able to deliver results that meet these external expectations while recognising that success is best achieved when they have the mutual support of their team. Nelson Mandela has a famous quote that we should look for three things in a person, that being intelligence, energy and integrity, and goes on to say that if they do not have integrity, don’t worry about the first two. We could adopt a similar thinking to leaders within our organisation, and this is certainly a fundamental component of all leadership development programs delivered by experts at The Leadership Sphere. We must first build a story of what integrity is within a senior leadership group, before driving skills and tactics of high performance team development. This ensures that we are building the right culture for which we drive performance over the long term in a humanistic and sustainable way.
What can we take from this?
Change leadership is a necessary undertaking in the modern business environment. As such, there can be no straightforward answer as to what the best approach to navigating it is. However, there has been a steady shift towards ‘people first’ mentalities in business within recent years. Of course there will also always be incentive for companies to be profitable as well. This does mean that executives leading today must master the skill of balancing these two, sometimes opposing, priorities in order to drive change and achieve success.
For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.