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Leadership is all about being yourself and demonstrating personal authenticity rather than learning some formula from a text book.  Aspiring leaders therefore need to be true to themselves; not slavishly following other's ideas. Role models can be powerful and it doesn't hurt to model excellence when found; executive coaching is based on this premise.


Real leaders are prepared to reveal their weakness, because they know they are not super-human.  Obviously this doesn't mean technical weaknesses or functional failings; this would fatally flaw their performance.  Instead, what is meant is that leaders should reveal their personality quirks - maybe they are bad tempered in the morning, are somewhat shy with new people or a little disorganized. Such admissions show they are human and this resonates with others confirming that the leader is a person - not merely a role-holder.


Revealing their true selves, leaders can allow others to know and help them and this makes for better teamwork; followers can also feel better if they've got something to complain about. Thus by sharing at least some of their weaknesses, leaders can prevent others from inventing damaging problems. True leadership is therefore much more than a demonstration of strengths. Real leaders acknowledge their shortcomings and may even make them work for them.


Good leaders always rely on their ability to read situations. They develop a 'feel' for an environment, and interpret soft data without having to be told. They know when team morale is patchy or when complacency needs shaking up. There are three levels of situational sensitivity, each of which has its own specific skills.


 Effective leaders are continually learning about the motives, attributes and skills of their important subordinates. They get to know their people through formal and, often better, informal contact such as when traveling together.


Effective leaders read their teams. They analyze the compound balance between team members, the tension between the tasks and processes, and how the team builds its competencies.


Finally, they are concerned with defining the cultural characteristics of their organizations and keep their finger on the pulse of the organization's climate.


It sounds tongue-in-cheek to say that leaders care for their people. Ever noticed the cynicism in the workforce upon seeing a manager return from a people-skills training course with new concern for others. Effective leaders don't need a training program to convince their employees that they really care. They clearly empathize with their people and care intensely about their work.


Genuine concern is difficult because it always involves some personal risk - showing some part of yourself and your most strongly held values can seem quite scary. It may also take some detachment - the ability to stand back, see the whole picture and sometimes take tough decisions. Leadership never was a popularity contest.


Effective leaders use their differences and move on to distinguish themselves through personal qualities such as sincerity, loyalty, creativity, or sheer expertise.


Using these differences is a critical leadership skill. But, as always, there is a danger - too much distance makes it impossible to sense situations properly or to communicate effectively.



"Resistance to change may be active or passive, overt or covert, individual or organized, aggressive or timid......... and on occasions totally justified."


Sadly most significant change fails to meet the expectations and targets of the proposers. The failure is given the name "resistance", yet resistance can be principled and creative as well as from vested interest. Top management is frequently unreasonable in its expectations and time scale, forgetting the process it went through when it decided to make the change.


An effective change manager will prepare an organization for change in the early stages of project definition and stakeholder review, by taking managers through a similar sales process and responding to their apparent resistance: the "creative conflict."


This process is likely to improve the project definition and buy in. It will also ensure that it is clear the moment resistance becomes "vested interest."


It is unrealistic to expect an independent change manager to tackle vested interest resistance but the change director can use his or her intervention as a signal to the organization - such interventions should be few but telling.


An independent change manager is a cross between a foil and a lightning conductor - the foil ensuring that positive energy is deflected to the right place, the lightening conductor removing negative energy from the organization.


How do we avoid failure ? - Manage the Resistance


Resistance is a key element in why change fails.


A recent informal UK survey of 120 government transformation programmes identified that:


* 15% achieved their objectives

* A further 20% failed to achieve their objectives but were nevertheless regarded as satisfactory

* 65% were unsatisfactory.


A subsequent discussion forum on identified 7 key reasons why change fails. (The list is virtually identical to one made by John Kotter at Harvard almost 20  years ago).


1. The organization had not been clear about the reasons for the change and the overall objectives. This plays into the hands of any vested interests.


2. They had failed to move from talking to action quickly enough. This leads to mixed messages and gives resistance a better opportunity to focus.


3. The leaders had not been prepared for the change of management style required to manage a changed business or one where change is the norm. "Change programmes" fail in that they are seen as just that: "programmers". The mentality of "now we're going to do change and then we'll get back to normal" causes the failure. Change as the cliché goes is a constant; so a one off programme, which presumably has a start and a finish, doesn't address the long-term change in management style.


4.They had chosen a change methodology or approach that did not suit the business. Or worse still they had piled methodology upon methodology, programme upon programme. One organization we came across sometime ago had both six sigma and balance score-card.


5. The organization had not been prepared and the internal culture had 'pushed back' against the change.


6. The business had 'steam rolled" certain functions with little regard to the overall business (i.e. they had changed one part of the process and not considered the impact up or downstream) In short they had panicked and were looking for a quick win or to declare victory too soon.


7. They had set the strategic direction for the change and then the leaders had remained remote from the change (sometimes called 'Distance Transformation') leaving the actual change to less motivated people. Success has many parents; failure is an orphan.


Very few organizations will manage all 7! However any one in isolation will make the change programme inconsistent and aggravate resistance. Advance planning and stakeholder management will avoid some of these pitfalls. Furthermore the list is an invaluable diagnostic tool for identifying why (and where) resistance is taking place, giving an opportunity to defuse resistance by correcting the mistake.


Key Points to Remember 

  •  Resistance can be healthy 
  • Unknown, unanticipated, unquantified, unaddressed resistance will always be dangerous.
  • A badly thought out process and implementation will always result in resistance
  • An independent change manager can bring the independence, experience, and objectivity to manage resistance.

A successful change is essential in creating a change culture

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