Change: Three Essentials For Every Leader

 	Change: 3 Essentials For Every Leader

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth 

The sustainability of any organization hinges on leadership’s ability to understand, embrace, and implement change. Whenever leaders are surveyed about what keeps them awake at night, “change” is usually at or near the top of the list. When change initiatives fail, so do leaders. When brands fall into decline, and organizations implode, it’s often due to a company’s inability to change. In today’s post, I’ll share three fresh approaches to change.

Try to envision a future without change… it’s nearly impossible to do, isn’t it? A world without change, a world frozen in time, a world stuck in a perpetual state of status quo – it’s certainly uninspired, and for me, it’s altogether unimaginable. While most of us hold a worldview that embraces, if not demands change, this isn’t always the case with business leaders. Sure, most leaders talk about change, but do they really lead it? Talking about innovation is not the same as bringing it to life.

The best evidence of the importance of change leadership is what occurs in its absence– mediocrity, irrelevance, and ultimately, obsolescence. Leaders concerned with the cost of change should be far more concerned about the cost of not changing. The best of human ingenuity and accomplishment are experienced through change. To learn, create, advance, develop, and sustain, we must change. If you accept this premise as true, then my question is this: why do so many businesses struggle with the practice of change? The answer is regrettably obvious– many leaders are simply inept at leading change.

Following are three ideas, which will help you lead change more effectively:

#1: Pull Change Forward
Stop talking about change as a theoretical future state and pull it forward into the present. Change is the path to the future, but the future isn’t some ethereal, distant event – it begins in just a fraction of a second. While all great leaders must navigate the present, they must do so in anticipation of the future. The best leaders understand the present is nothing more than a platform for the envisioning of, and positioning for, the future. If you want to lead more effectively, shorten the distance between the future and present.

#2: Change Is Not a Process – It’s A Mindset
Leading change is far more than a process– it’s a cultural mindset. Change requires leaders to embrace dissenting opinions, give voice to positional differences, and to constantly challenge static thinking. While leading change does require skill, it first requires a decision to value change, and then it demands the courage to act. Leadership isn’t about being right; it’s about achieving the right outcomes. Change must be more than a buzzword used by leadership – it must be embedded within the strategic vision, cultural design, and operating fabric of the enterprise. Leaders who protect the status quo through control must surrender to change in order to secure the future for their organization.

#3: Leadership IS Change
If there are no visible signs of change in your organization, I would suggest your leadership isn’t leading. Change must become a leadership competency and priority. Leaders who fail to deliver change will be replaced by those who can. Leadership is nothing if not fluid, flexible, and forward moving – none of these things can occur without an emphasis on change. In fact, I would go so far as to say “leadership IS change.

Bonus: This is where it gets tricky – not all change is good change. Just as a lack of change can bring demise, Ill-conceived change, change solely for the sake of change, or change driven by hidden/self-serving agendas can ruin even category dominant brands. Make sure the drivers for change are in alignment with corporate values and vision, serve the best interests of the consumer, and lead to a higher purpose.

If you’re in a leadership role, it’s in the best interest of the organization, and those you lead, to embrace change at every level.


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    J Schum

    July 2, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Great stuff Mike. Thanks for outline.  Sometimes, IMO, the control issue is directly tied to a trust issue.  Can leadership trust its people to possibly know a better way?  And then, embrace it when that way is made evident. 

      Mike Myatt

      July 2, 2012 at 9:39 am

      Thanks for sharing your observations. If leadership can’t trust its people, then it has the wrong people.

      Jerry Taylor

      September 30, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      This is a great point, J. I believe they definitely should since the people are closer to the front line. It´s all about the bottom-up, empowerment, decentralization, flat organization etc., isn´t it? I wrote recently on a priori trust which needs to emanate from the culture, where the hierarchies literally disappear. Take care.

    Christina Haxton

    July 2, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Change is inevitable and is an ongoing process not a static event.  Leaders who can demonstrate trust in their people (thanks J Schum) to be an instrumental part of the process rather than shove an initiative down from the top will build a much more sustainable and resilient organization.  Trust goes both ways, I believe.

      Mike Myatt

      July 2, 2012 at 12:58 pm

      Trust, at least authentic trust, is indeed a two-way street. Change inspired and implemented through collaborative efforts has a much better survival rate. Thanks for sharing Christina. 

    Sami ATIG

    July 2, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Dear Mike,

    Your Tweet: Talking about #innovation isn’t the same thing as bringing it to life.

    Surrounded by people who don’t care about sustainability as key driver of innovation, true innovation is Impossible.
    I must rethink the fundamentals of my business and Innovation is only way to validate promises.

    You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
    Yes : leadership is change over time.
    A leader leads by example and a positive one starts by embracing reality.


    Dale Myers

    July 2, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks Mike – great stuff!  I think we need to separate transformational change from continuous improvement. Bringing or implementing transformational change cleary requires the right mindset, courage – and, usually a fair amount of creativity. CI is more process driven for which there are repetitive tools that can be used (6 sigma as example). I think it important we make a distinction here because not all change is created the same. Thanks again for posting! All the best. DM

      Mike Myatt

      July 2, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Hi Dale:

      Fair call-out. I tend to think more in terms of transformational change / disruptive innovation and should have drawn a clear distinction between what I was addressing and process improvement. Thanks Dale. 

    soft skills world

    July 3, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Change is the only constant and keeping pace with the changing trends is the only way to survive and sustain else we go obsolete. Truly said change is a mind set and that comes from within. Resistance to change in us is as implied as our ability to innovate and create.An approach to lateral thinking is the key to see change as inevitable tool for crisis management. 

    Mike Myatt

    July 6, 2012 at 7:56 am

    I’m in complete concurrence Pascal. Thanks for sharing.

    July 8, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    I do hear change being thrown too often it starts to lack substance. Overused to the point of it being pure lip service. You made a good point about change being not something in the future. A leader must believe in the urgency of change and must be able to convey that conviction to the rest.


    July 27, 2012 at 1:39 am

    TO change the environment or surroundings regardless of whether you are running a small business or a firm with 500 employees, very first step is, you have to change yourself. Before leading others lead yourself first, people around you will get inspired automatically and will love to follow you.


      September 14, 2012 at 10:54 pm

      So true! I recently clipped “Lead others by example: experts say it’s the best way to be credible” by Joyce E.A. Russell. It’s like generating a charge you can pass along – or receive – and I do think there is an attraction to it.

    Jill Ellis

    September 13, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Mike, thanks for another pointed yet powerful reminder of
    the role change plays in leadership.
    This message particularly resonates for me as our organization recently experienced
    the loss of a dear friend and leader that embodied the culture of change. He didn’t just lead change he WAS change. As with times like this, you tend to take time
    from the daily busy work to reflect and we can truly see the impact this person
    made to our organization. He did not
    call it change he just demanded the forward vision and even when the majority
    opposed it, he had the experience and wisdom to know to keep moving forward. Anything else was just imaginable. Unfortunately
    we all see examples of the opposite and the corresponding results. Size or segment of business doesn’t matter.
    As you so well stated…the world changes….so that says it can happen with or
    without you.

      Mike Myatt

      September 13, 2012 at 6:56 pm

      Hi Jim:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and please accept my condolences for your loss – he sounds like the type of leader I would have liked to have known.

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