by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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Organizations, both big and small, often face chasms between what they are currently doing and what they want or need to do. These moments in time can be very difficult for organizations as they can cause incredible pressure to build on the shoulders of the leaders. The biggest pressure comes from the expectations of organizational stakeholders to make the change happen quickly. As the leader stands at the precipice of the chasm of needed change, they feel the push from behind to jump headlong across the chasm hoping to make it to the other side successfully. In their head though, they are cautious about the change. William Bridges in his book, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, claims that the biggest problem is that organizations often “expect to be able to move straight from the old to the new. But this isn’t a trip from one side of the street to the other. It’s a journey from one identity to the other, and that takes time.” Organizational change cannot occur overnight, nor can one simple meeting solve every issue. Noted leadership expert, Ron Heiftez, points out that for change to be successful, people in the organization “need time to see their lives in a different light – to change their images of the future and the plans nurtured over a lifetime.” The stakeholders in the change process should be aware of the fact that the pressure for immediate change will serve only to choke off successful change, as the pressure will suffocate the will of the people.
The rushing of the process and improbable expectations of immediate change can halt a leader’s ability to mobilize the organization. Thus, leaders should be fully aware of this notion, and counteract its negative effects through influence, motivation, and communication. A leader’s ability to influence and motivate the stakeholders in his or her organization is the key to true change. However, as Heifetz point out, the leader needs to be careful not to “challenge the system too far and too fast and invite his or her own suppression.” This idea coincides with the notion of giving the work back to the people so that they develop the interest and need for change. Rather than forcing change, leaders need to cultivate an environment where change is grown through the people. The leader needs to continue to push the stakeholders to develop this interest in change without rushing too fast and too far. An organization will not change on its own without leadership and so the leader needs to walk the fine line between pushing too hard and not pushing enough.
For the transformation of organizations to occur, the stakeholders need to realize what noted organizational expert, Peter Senge states: “new insights fail to get put into practice because they conflict with deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting.” As an organization stands at the precipice overlooking the chasm filled with turmoil, chaos, and failure, it needs to open itself up to new possibilities and new images of the future. Organizations cannot continue to stand in the rut of a stationary system that does not grow and does not modify itself to fit into current American society. Although management cannot be the force of change, they do play an integral role in the change process. Through their authority and the use of transformational leadership strategies, they can be the catalyst for adaptive change in the organization. The key is in their ability to mobilize others within the organization to feel the need for change, plan out the change, and then take action towards the change. This is the key to effective organizational leadership during times of change.
Leaders who try to make the jump across the chasm by themselves, as they pull the weight of the entire organization will surely find themselves at the bottom of the great divide. Leaders who try to push others across the divide will end up losing their followers in the chasm. The only way to move forward is for the leaders to build the change process with their followers. The only way to bridge the divide is to work together towards a goal of change that will have a positive impact on the organization. The task is not simple, but then again, is change ever simple and easy? The bridging of the chasm may look to be a daunting or even an impossible task for leaders of organizations, but through effective leadership strategies the beginnings of a bridge across the great divide can be built. Change takes time, patience, effort, communication, and motivation. These become the foundational pillars for the bridge that spans the chasm of change.
by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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When we think of leadership, we often focus solely on the actions of the leader towards the followers. We talk about how leaders motivate others to succeed, how leaders take initiative in times of stress, and how leaders are able to move great forces towards a common goal. We celebrate the actions, but we often miss where these actions are built. The foundation for every successful leadership action is the leader’s own understanding of who they are. For every leadership action is a representation of who the leader is, what the leader believes in, and what the leader excels at. To be a great leader, a person must not only be self-aware, but they have to live and act according to their authentic self. In the field of leadership, we call this authentic leadership.
Authentic leadership is based on two concepts of ancient Greek philosophers: 1) know thyself, and 2) to thine self be true. Authentic leaders know who they are, know their strengths and weaknesses, know their goals and vision, and know what they believe in. Authentic leaders take action based on their own personal values and convictions. Authentic leaders know who they are and are not worried about what others might think of them. Authentic leaders lead by example, are transparent in their decision-making, are accountable for their actions, and acknowledge their own limitations. In order to achieve this level of authenticity, you must work through various levels of self-awareness. The push in this work is to be honest and open with yourself. In getting to know your authentic self, the focus is on what you know about yourself, not what others tell you about yourself. Authenticity is not about conforming to what others believe in or want you to be, it is about knowing and living what you believe in and what you want to be.
While this authenticity may sound simple, we as people focus almost entirely on what others think of us. We follow career paths that others believe would work well for us. We make decisions that will enable us to fit in with the crowd. We live the status quo. Rarely do we completely follow what it is that we believe in and what we are interested in. There are myriad reasons why we are not authentic in our lives, but the biggest detriment to being an authentic leader is FEAR! We fear what others might think of us. We fear the consequences of breaking away from the crowd. We fear failure and hearing everyone tell us, “I told you so.”
But most of the greatest innovators and leaders followed their authentic self. They traversed their authentic path and were able to enact leadership in forms that others had never seen or experienced before. Bill Gates didn’t follow the crowd and finish his studies at Harvard, he got in touch with his authentic self, dropped out and believed his new computer company would be huge. Martin Luther King, Jr., never wavered from his authentic self and his belief that the world could be different. The company Old Navy is authentic to itself, it doesn’t try to be a high-end retailer like Nordstorms. Old Navy is who it is and if it changed then it would no longer be Old Navy and they would lose their incredibly strong client base. Adele doesn't suddenly start writing and singing rap songs because that is what is kids are listening to. She knows her authentic self, and what songs connect with who she is, and she sings them without fear of not fitting in.
But this is a place where so many leaders and organizations fail. They try to be something they are not. They try to appease everyone. They lack a focus in their products, decisions, and actions. It is like the face-off between a great pitcher and a great hitter in baseball. If the pitcher is known for their great fastball then they go with their fastball and they believe in it. Pitchers run into trouble when they lose their authentic self and try to match what they are doing with what the hitter doesn’t do well. Often times the pitcher is throwing a curve ball or change-up, neither of which they throw well, because they think this is the hitter’s weakness. So they would rather go with their 2nd or 3rd best pitch, rather than believing their best pitch is better than that hitter’s strengths. That pitcher just needs to believe in their stuff, believe in that great fastball, and believe that the fastball will strike out that hitter. It doesn’t always work and that batter may hit a home run off that pitcher every now and then, but more times than not, that authenticity will reign supreme.
It is not just on the baseball field where authenticity is so greatly needed. Every organization and leader needs to find their authentic self. They need to find what they do well and what they believe in. Every action and decision should be focused on this authentic belief system and skill set. If they don’t know and live their authentic self, then they are set up failure. If they don’t lead through authenticity then they are just another face in the crowd. It may be easier to just fit into that crowd. It may be easier to fit into what everyone else thinks you should do. It might be easier to not take a stand in your life. It might be easier to not face that fear of failure. But for those of us who want to be truly great leaders who make a difference in the world, then we need to get that mirror out and start figuring out who we are, what our strengths and weaknesses are, and what it is that we believe in and want to accomplish. That mirror will lead us to success. That mirror will lead us to happiness because we will be living the life that we believe in. And the world will hopefully be a better place because we took the time to look in that mirror and figure out our authentic self.