Thoughts on Relevance, Change Management and Effective Leadership

In the industry where I work, a recurring theme is the application of change management, and how frequently it appears more difficult to make a best decision, versus being hamstrung by paralysis and resistance to moving forward. It might be tempting at times to think resolution is simply not possible. In other words, that things can’t change or will occur so slowly it won’t matter. But I don’t believe this, and I refuse to give in to this kind of cynicism that is right out of the Peter Principle. It is possible to be fresh, relevant, effective, adaptive to change and full of life at nearly any age, or stage of career, if the mental and physical health are present to do so. I am writing this as someone who is not a young person and I am more convinced of it than ever. Deficiencies or strengths in these areas are really matter of one’s determination to stay engaged and current (for whatever purpose or specialization) through continuous learning, then apply the mental energy to implement such things. Resistance to change can also be equally present in the young. We tend to miss this observation because frequently, age often compounds the problem of resistance to change, so we automatically conclude that one presupposes the other. But this too is simply not the case. A person can be narrow minded and adverse to innovation, technology, improvement and change at any age. This is a critical point of understanding for leaders since it is people who make up the team, and they are the leverage to accomplish anything.

In The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan, the authors discuss the importance of  the “vision of building tactical capacity in a team” – that is, the ability to span between vision and execution, and the need for building loyalty, trust, and commitment. Tactical capacity is a tremendous discussion in itself, but I will limit the quote to a short, but excellent imperative for leadership,

[Tactical] capacity — this flexibility, energy, and skill — comes first from leadership. Your goal as a leader is to build it in each and every team member. This kind of leadership is far from intuitive. And the lack of it, in the end, is a fatal stumbling block for many leaders of new ventures. The entire process needs to be driven by an awareness of the kind of leadership that ensures success in the challenging circumstances of a transition.

This is great advice for accelerating a transition, but is is also guiding principle for ongoing process innovation of any kind. This will sometimes involve hiring and fully utilizing managers who are more skilled at given aspects of leadership and/or various areas of expertise than they are. Focusing on transformation and inspiration, and not being afraid of these skill sets, even if the senior manager does not fully understand them is key to personal and organizational success. Frequently though, there is a fear of competence, or what is simply a stylistic difference, which is rooted in human nature. The motivation could be jealousy, fear of being upstaged or even replaced. But the opposite should actually be true. If a senior leader has enough vision to identify the right talent, managing and implementing such people should only strengthen their position of leadership and produce the very best results for the organization. That is an expression of effective leadership.

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