The role of mid- and senior-level leaders in making change happen is critical.
But lack of leadership is the downfall of countless change initiatives — and the barrier to necessary organizational transformation.
Bill Pasmore, CCL senior vice president and organizational practice leader, describes “lack of leadership” as one predictable problem when organizations implement changes.
Pasmore says it’s time to step up your individual and collective change leadership ability when any of the following conditions exist:
- Little or no direction. Rather than giving a roadmap or next steps, people are asked to “do better,” with little guidance about specifically what doing better means.
- No clear action plan. People are told what to do but left on their own to figure out how. Leaders are minimally involved.
- Weak commitments. Leaders withdraw support for change at the first sign of difficulties or shift priorities before the change can be completed.
- No value seen in supporting change. People who try to make changes happen are not rewarded or encouraged, and those who resist change are not confronted.
- Active defiance. Leaders openly side with those who oppose change from above.
- No interest in personal change. Leaders punish those who suggest that leaders themselves may need to change.
- Old patterns rule. Leaders say they support the change, but in fact continue to pursue the same priorities as in the past.
- Looking the other way. Leaders are unwilling to confront their peers or superiors when their behavior is problematic.
- Refusing input. Leaders won’t listen to input from people who have ideas.
- Holding back. Leaders are not willing to make the tough decisions that often accompany real change.
- All talk. No action. Leaders support change publicly but do little or nothing to drive change when they have the opportunity to do so.
- Waiting. And waiting. Leaders await further clarity before taking action.
- Oblivious action. Leaders continue to press forward blindly when the change obviously is not working as intended, rather than stopping to listen and figure out what should be happening.
- Arms-length interest. Leaders abdicate control of the change process to internal or external consultants.
Chances are, you see some of these reactions in the leaders around you — and may even recognize your own struggles to lead change. If so, any new strategy, process, goal, or system is at risk.
“Leading change is made even more complex by the fact that change is ongoing and overlapping,” Pasmore notes.
“We don’t have the luxury of dealing with a single change initiative or isolated challenge. It takes individual and organizational effort to successfully navigate change and overcome the 14 common ways leaders get in the way of change.”
CCL offers a two-day course, Navigating Change, to help managers guide their teams through a current change. Participants work with peers and CCL experts, are immersed in a change simulation activity, learn their personal preference for change and plan how to apply — and sustain — what they learn.