Is change in your leadership DNA?


As we approach the festive season, it is natural to reflect on what an extraordinary year it has been. Organisation leaders will also be turning their minds to 2021. They will be asking themselves, and their people: how do we chart a course towards a successful 2021?

The only thing they can count on, whatever organisation they are leading, will be continuing change.

The catalyst could be external, driven for example by regulatory, technological, competitive, or pandemic forces.  Or it could be leaders’ own initiatives for strengthening the business or meeting changing stakeholder expectations.

Successful leaders expect, accept and create change. Where in the ‘expect to create’ change spectrum a leader sits depends on their organisation and what it wants to achieve. Broadly, we see leaders effecting change in one of three ways.

  1. Large scale transformational programmes
  2. Ongoing incremental change
  3. Response to external events (or crisis)

We often think about change as large-scale transformation, involving new technology programmes or organisational restructures or major cultural change. In these cases, the recognised disciplines in successful change become important. Organisations resource up, appoint champions, produce change project plans, create internal communications campaigns, training, and timelines and so on. All perfectly legitimate.

However, change should not be defined as simply lurching from one transformation to the next. Change is a constant requirement of sustained organisational success. Organisations whose leaders recognise change as a constant are more likely to be adaptive and resilient. They are also more likely to prevail when times are challenging and outperform when they are good.

Leaders in the ‘expect to create’ change mindset, who consistently promote a culture of curiosity, organisational learning and innovation, are the ones we will be reading about in the case studies of the mid and late 2020’s. They are also leaders in meaningful engagement and communication about change. They relentlessly focus on preparing the organisation for the future.

When contemplating 2021 on your summer break, ignore the predictions of the commentariat and reflect on the following:

  1. To what extent is yours a learning organisation?
  2. Are you and your fellow leaders energised by, or resistant to change?
  3. When initiating change, are you engaging with your people effectively (for example, through early personalisation, multi-platform/channel communications and feedback loops)?

When answering these questions consider leadership behaviours and the symbols, stories and characteristics that bring the organisation to life.

Is your picture one of a dynamic, energised, and adaptive organisation? Or is it of one clinging to dated assumptions and beliefs?

Your answer may shape how you stack up as a leader in 2021.