What New Leaders Don't Realize (Part II: Change)

In Part I of the series, we looked at three simple ways that new leaders can leverage their own ability.  Not surprisingly, each step relies on the power of other people.  As Rick Warren says, “No one is pursuasive if they are abrasive”.  You need others along the leadership journey, simple as that.

Today let’s look at the role of change in the life of a leader.

Change is extremely powerful.  And dangerous.  And seductive.   

It grabs almost every leader by the heart and the head, telling him that he can do just a little bit more and just go a bit further with his plans.  Change gets into the head of the leader, making her think that she’s capable of more than she actually is.  

More significantly, change takes on a life of its own for the followers.  Take someone that you despise as a leader.  Now think of nearly everything that they say or try to do.  Let me guess- you’re against all of it, right?  

I’ve been there.

Our family has been a part of different parishes, schools, etc. (you get the point) in which the leadership was shaky.  It got hard to be positive when another change was announced.  In each case, the leader thought nothing of the change.  The people though, saw every small change as part of a larger mission to summarily shift the DNA of the community. 

And, as you can imagine, people don’t like to change.  If they dislike your leadership style, you’re toast.  Nothing you propose will seem right.  Pick out blue curtains and they’ll tell you that beige is more appropriate.  Renovate a community room and they’ll complain that you didn’t solicit enough feedback beforehand.  And on and on.  The point is that everyone is looking at the leader, asking "Doesn't he realize what he's doing to undo this community?"  To the leader, he sees opportunity.

Make too many changes though and you'll be seen as a power hungry idiot.  In case you're checking, that's not the ideal perception for a leader.  Just sayin'.

So what can the new leader (often seduced by change) do to stem the tide of his own desire to make changes?  Here are, you guessed it, three suggestions: 

  1. Take the first year slowly.  This is more difficult than it sounds.  When you see something that you’d like to be different, move on to #2.
  2. Keep prolific lists.  Use a pad of paper.  Use Nozbe.  Try out Omnifocus.  Buy napkins.  It doesn’t matter really but keeping lists of things that you’d like to change is the only way to get them out of your head.  I typically work on my lists during assemblies, during meetings or when I'm in the car.  
  3. Lay the groundwork for change.  Tell people that all leaders change things because all organizations (that are alive) grow and growth means change.  Your message should be clear: I’m here to learn first and lead second. If change is needed, it will come fairly and honestly.  My door is open to the conversation and I will include you to the degree that I can.  Be reasonable with people's expectations.

What about you?  When it comes to change, what has been effective in your organization?

Photo courtesy of FJ