We've all heard before that change is the only constant in life. Well one of the biggest jobs of a leader is to navigate their team through change. Whether your leadership style is servant-, relationship-, participatory-, or transformational- based (or a combination) leading others to actionable results is an unwieldy task. Timing change matters too, as Daniel Pink points out in When- The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. There is a big gap between pronouncing that change is needed and then actually affecting change. What's involved? What mindsets are required? I asked 6 leaders with a diverse range of leadership styles their perspective on what it takes for a leader to affect change. Here below are their thoughts.
1. Leading In The Unknown
Thomas Winkelmann, Managing Creative Director, SYPartners
"Every day at SYPartners we do something we've never done before--that's the nature of our work. Three great challenges of leading in this context come to mind: 1) casting the right teams to begin with (not organized by titles and hierarchy but by mastery and passion); 2) creating the conditions and the permission to think and create boldly as well as to be able to say 'I don't know' or 'I am scared'; 3) painting and keeping alive a vivid picture of the future we are building, at all times."
2. The Trust Factor
Kelly Goto, CEO, gotoresearch
"Leaders affect change by hiring and mentoring incredible, self-reliant and proactive people. When you trust other people to do great work and show them they can by letting them do it -- that's true leadership. Great leaders affect change by taking responsibility for their actions in the past, present and future. They do not blame others or regret actions of the past but learn from those lessons to not only grow but also thrive."
3. Mind The Gap
Esther Franklin, EVP, Managing DIrector of Strategy & Cultural Fluency, Spark Foundry
"You must be aware of the gap between what people say versus what they do. That is the sweet spot to affect change. Listen to what people are saying and hear what they are not saying. This brings clarity to the actual challenge and opportunity to solve and drive change. It's also important to demand divergent perspectives and voices in the process. This insures a line of sight into your blind spots, making it possible to drive impact beyond your wildest imagination!"
4. Handle Culture With Care
Jerry Kathman, Founder & Board Chair, LPK
"As a brand design consultant, my career is based on successfully managing change. I have witnessed massive change, such as the digitization of commerce and the globalization of brand franchises. Above all, the key to managing change is an understanding of the culture required for success. An environment where ideas are nurtured and safe is essential. Enabling a safe and nurturing culture is the essence of leadership. The creative process is fragile: new ideas do not emerge fully formed."
5. Co-Create and Celebrate Success
Maaike Doyer, CFO, Business Models Inc
"Change is not something that is the sole role of leadership. Co-create change with a multi-disciplinary team. As a leader you need to create space for the rebel, for the unusual suspect to participate in change decision making. Change typically goes with super small baby steps. Make sure every little effort and change is celebrated and communicated! And of course, live the change. Too often I see leadership saying the organization needs to change, but somehow they believe it is everyone else, except for them. That doesn't work. Make sure that what you as a leader do differently is really visible."
6. Express Change as A Narrative
Gary Kopervas, VP Brand Strategy & Innovation, 20nine
From the perspective of leading creatives, it's important that younger creatives build good habits and it's up to leadership to lay that foundation. Most leaders can explain "the what and how" around any change initiative...few leaders effectively explain "the why." When it comes to working with client leaders, I've observed that effective leaders are able to express change as a narrative that allows everyone in the company to find his or her place in the story. Any change initiative has to be inclusive."
Over time, with diligence, generosity and courage, these six principles for navigating change can be mastered at every turn in the road. If you're a leader, you'll get plenty of opportunities to practice!