What Senior Executives Told Us About Change-Capable Leadership

What Senior Executives Told Us About Change-Capable Leadership

When you ask senior leaders to describe the key business challenges they’re facing within their organizations, you tend to find the same few challenges repeated. These obstacles are often related to having the right talent, improving operational efficiency, spurring innovation, and driving growth.

Regardless of your place in the organizational hierarchy, these challenges (or variations) probably sound familiar. Why is it that these issues emerge year after year? What is at the root of an organization’s continual struggle to manage these challenges? One of the root causes is that they all require change — the need to move from an existing state to a new and different one. As it turns out, success in leading change is mixed and disappointing.

This probably isn’t a surprise. But why does it happen this way?

Imagine you’ve been asked to lead a major change in your organization. What would you do? What are the steps? What’s the secret to leading, navigating, or executing a successful change initiative? If you feel you’re not sure, you’re not alone.

What Is Change-Capable Leadership?

We wanted to know more about what leaders do when leading change effectively, which we refer to as change-capable leadership, so we conducted a research study to learn more about it.

We define change-capable leadership as the individual and collective actions, behaviors, and mindsets needed to lead change effectively. It’s about how leaders behave while doing the work of change and how to forge a common direction around change. Change-capable leadership requires knowing how to align people and resources toward that change direction and build the collective commitment (often referred to as buy-in) to making the change effort successful.

Change-capable leadership isn’t a change-management model. It’s what leaders do to make a change effort successful.

How to Be a Change-Capable Leader

In our research study, we asked 148 senior executive leaders about a change they successfully navigated in the past 12 to 18 months. They described the challenge they faced and what they believe contributed to the successful execution of that change. Their responses include the behaviors they displayed, the actions they took, and the mindsets they adopted.

We also asked a different group of 127 executives about a change with an unsuccessful outcome within the past 12 to 18 months. They too described the challenges they faced and the behaviors they displayed.

Together, those 275 senior executive leaders gave us tremendous insight as they talked about the most important factors for success, including what you should do more of, do less of, or avoid altogether. Their experiences, outlined in our white paper, can help you bring change-capable leadership to your organization and provide an early warning system to avoid failure.

If you’re a leader facing complex business challenges in your organization that require changes in the way people have always done things, our paper offers these 3 primary insights about change-capable leadership, based on the feedback we received from almost 300 senior executives:

  • Change yourself. Leading change successfully means spending time outside of your comfort zone. As the individual leading an initiative, you must change your mindset, actions, and behaviors.
  • Don’t go it alone. Leading change is a team activity. People come together driven by a compelling — and frequently communicated — message about why things are changing.
  • Know the signs. Recognize the early warning signs that indicate an initiative is starting to derail: negativity and disengagement. And take quick action to address them.

These senior executives provided other insights as well, particularly around the “3 C’s of change,” which are key to becoming a successful change leader.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Increase the collective capacity for change at your organization. Help your people to become change-capable leaders with our Change Leadership solutions.

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December 17, 2020
Leading Effectively Staff
About the Author(s)
Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff, who analyze our decades of pioneering, expert research and experiences in the field to share content that will help leaders at every level. Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-based leadership articles and insights sent straight to your inbox.

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