Learn about the nine key skills every leader should have in their change leadership toolkit.
- Now think of the skills you need for leading change as a toolkit. As you continually hone and develop your skills as a change leader, it's as if you're constantly updating your toolset. You start out with a rusty old screwdriver and after some practice, you have a shiny power tool that makes quick work of every problem. My friend John Hagel at Deloitte Center for the Edge talks about the power of pull. So think of these skills designed to pull others along with you as a leader. So what skills should be in your change leadership toolkit? Download the worksheet for this exercise and follow along.
First, inspire those around you. You need to be able to create a shared vision of the change you want to encourage, and what the future will look like once you've all been successful together. If you can tell a compelling story of the future you see, you'll rapidly build your coalition of the willing, and if they are on fire with that vision, they'll work harder, smarter, and faster to achieve it. Next, be committed to that vision. It's only human to question yourself, but keep yourself motivated by maintaining your eyes on the prize for the positive change you see, and let people see how passionate you are about your commitment.
Next, be strong. You are likely to continually find challenges and challengers to your vision of the change you want to see. If you genuinely have the interest of the organization and its people at heart, believe in yourself and accept that as conflicts arise, you can continue to maintain your course. Be decisive. You will never have enough information, so work to make decisions as rapidly as you can. That doesn't mean you should be inflexible or pull the trigger too quickly, but agonizing over simple decisions sends the wrong message.
Next, be resilient. When setbacks happen, roll with the punches. Pick yourself back up, then solve the next problem. It's also important to be open. When you're to model leadership, it's often hard to be authentic, transparent, and self-aware, but you are a human. It's okay to occasionally have doubts, and when you make mistakes, not if, but when, forgive yourself first. Then be transparent with others. Admit when you've made a mistake.
You'll be astonished how sending that message to others can change the culture of a team or an entire organization. Next is to empower. Whenever possible, you want to help people define for themselves how they can use their own skills to achieve the vision that you've infected them with. Don't manage the minutia. As a leader, using your personal power, when each new person joins the team, you can empower them to work with each other, to define collective goals and collaborative strategies.
Next, be empathetic. Even for change junkies, change is hard. People who resist change may not even know their own motivations. They may just know they feel uncomfortable. Be supportive and resolute that the change still needs to happen. That's a hard balance, but with practice, rather than practicing tough love, you can love and be tough. And last, have a sense of humor. Leading change doesn't have to be deadly dull. You should be loving what you're doing and encouraging others to do the same.
So these are the top skills I've found to be the most useful in your change leadership toolkit, but the list from the worksheet that you have has other skills listed as well. As you look at this list, put a checkmark next to those you think you'd do best and maybe a question mark next to the ones you think you need to improve. Then find a few other people that you trust to give you honest feedback about your self-analysis, and look for ways to practice the skills you think need improvement. Look, you've got this. Have confidence in yourself, stay committed to being a lifelong learner, and you'll continually grow as a leader of change.
- Recall the benefits of using personal power to lead in a flat organization.
- Name the main tactic of the opponents of change.
- Determine when a top-down approach to leading change is appropriate.
- List the two elements present in a team that is proficient at change.
- Identify the most important capability when considering a candidate for a position on an innovative team.
- Define “responsible change.”
- Recognize the appropriate time to encourage 10x thinking.