Change used to be periodic and slow-paced. Today, change is ongoing, often relentless. How are people in your organization coping with a state of permanent transition?

If your leaders haven’t learned to address the human side of change, it is likely employees aren’t resilient, engaged and on board.

Many leaders are skilled at effecting and responding to the structural side of change: creating a vision, reorganizing and restructuring. But it is rare that they have mastered the skills to constructively manage the human side of change: grieving, letting go, building hope and learning.

As a result trust is damaged or destroyed.

To create and sustain an environment of trust through transition, leaders must balance the six pairs of seemingly paradoxical leadership attributes:

Catalyzing change is championing an initiative or significant change, consistently promoting the cause and encouraging others to get on board. Coping with transition is about recognizing and addressing the personal and emotional elements of change. It includes being in touch with your own emotions and reactions.

Sense of urgency involves taking action when necessary to keep things rolling. A leader who has a strong sense of urgency moves fast on issues and accelerates the pace of change for everyone. Realistic patience requires knowing when and how to slow the pace down to allow time and space for people to cope and adapt.

Being tough denotes the ability to make the difficult decisions about issues and people with little hesitation or second-guessing. Being empathetic involves taking others’ perspective into account when making decisions and taking action.

Optimism is the ability to see the positive potential of any challenge and to convey that optimism to others. Realism and openness involves a willingness to be candid and clear about a situation and prospects for the future. It includes speaking the truth and admitting personal mistakes and foibles.

Self-reliance involves a willingness to take a lead role or even to do something yourself when necessary. A leader who is self-reliant has a great deal of confidence and is willing to step up and tackle most new challenges. Trusting others means being comfortable with allowing others to do their part of a task or project. It includes being open to others for input and support.

Capitalizing on strengths entails knowing your strengths and attributes and confidently applying them to tackle new situations and circumstances. Going against the grain involves a willingness to learn and try new things — to get out of your comfort zone — even when the process is difficult or painful.

Finding the right behaviors, tone and style can feel like an impossible balancing act, but effective leadership is not about hitting all points equally, all the time.

Learn about CCL’s Leading Through Transitions Facilitator’s Guide so you can help leaders learn to lead authentically, build trust and create an organization that can adapt more easily to permanent transition. Other resources you might be interested in:

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