Changing yourself, as a leader

Leadership means change.  If everything is fine just the way it is, you don’t need change and you don’t need leaders to help you do it.  But…many individual leaders find it hard to change themselves, or even to recognize that some things need to be changed in the way they present their character and personality” (Lessons from the Top – p222)

Well, it’s January 1st 2014, and scads of people around the world are making resolutions to change something, as we’ve apparently done for quite a long time.  So I suppose this post is thematic in that regard….

Leaders must be comfortable with changeAs Gavin Esler puts it, in Lessons from the Top, “Leadership means change.  If everything is fine just the way it is, you don’t need change and you don’t need leaders to help you do it.” (p222)

However, in addition to navigating a group through a change, a leader must be able to change him or herself.  But in a world in which careers and aspirations can be destroyed by something as reasonable as changing your mind, how is a leader to effectively change without alienating his or her followers?  In a chapter called “Leading Change: The Angelina Jolie Method”, Esler provides an instruction manual.First, he reminds us that, “…many individual leaders find it hard to change themselves, or even to recognize that some things need to be changed in the way they present their character and personality” (hey, another trait for the list!), and then he presents several case studies that show how some leaders have recognized the need for change and then successfully executed it.  Who are the subjects of Esler’s examples?  Among others reference by Esler to support some points, he focuses primarily on Angelina Jolie (from “Hollywood Airhead to Humanitarian Activist”) and Reverend Dr. Ian Paisley.

Without going into the details of either story, and especially without wading into Irish politics, I’ll just state that Esler makes a convincing case for a 5-part “How To” guide (quoting from p241):

  1. Accept, admit and define the problem (even if you do so only to yourself, or privately to your closest friends and advisers).
  2. Show intelligence and an open mind to listen to others.
  3. Don’t just talk about change, actually change your behaviour.
  4. Let other people know you have changed.
  5. Remain good humoured and humble about your failings.

Explained that way, it doesn’t sound so hard.

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Posted in Leadership
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