Thought Leadership
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Affecting Change at the Leadership Level (Part 1)

April 22, 2016

This is part one of a two-part blog post discussing how leaders can affect change.  Click here to read Part 2: "Affecting Change within an Individual".

Affecting Change Through Your Leadership Style And Presence

People resist change. They cling to the familiar. It is a centuries old dilemma wrapped around our genetic human survival code. However, as we well know, change is inevitable, especially in a growth environment. Growth encompasses change. Achievement of any kind requires change. So, if you are healthy, change is good.

How do you get an organization, a team, or an individual to embrace and support change?

Brad is the managing general partner of a mid-sized professional services firm. He was recruited into the firm out of college and progressed up the firm throughout his career. With the senior partners retiring, now being a senior partner himself, Brad one day finds himself as the head of the firm. Brad is a very likeable person. It is a strength of his that helped him build a large relationship-oriented clientele over a two-decade period of employment. However, how does Brad’s “strength” now translate into his very visible leadership role? Will some take him as soft and seek to manipulate or take advantage of his kindness and empathetic manner? In those times when some tough decisions must be made about an underperforming individual or an underperforming arm of the organization, how does Brad respond?

The answer is two-fold.

First, to affect subtle change within the entire organization, Brad must adjust, alter, or change some small aspect of his leadership style or presence.  (See the second answer in "Affecting Change at the Leadership Level (Part 2)".)

It doesn’t take much for you to shift or change one small item about your own leadership style or presence. Doing so translates into potentially significant benefits for individuals and for the organization as a whole. Small changes; an action, an initiative, a comment, can have significant impact on those under your charge because as a leader, you are being both watched and followed. Your example means a lot.

In your position, you know there are some attitudes and behaviors you’d like to see changed or reversed within some of the people around you. 

So, here is how the one in leadership can affect that change:

  1. On paper, record your perception of your leadership style and presence there at your office,
  2. On paper, now record what you believe is others’ opinion or view of you and your leadership style. If you have feedback from others about their pereception of you, use that for this “b” portion of the tool.
    Both of these should be a list of specific attributes, qualities and characteristics that sum up you and your leadership.
  3. Now make a third list of 3 to 5 behaviors (no more than 5) you’d most like to see exhibited within the culture and people of your business that are not currently being exhibited to the degree that you wish them to be.
  4. Now, using only one sheet of paper, put the “a” and “b” lists on the far left side of the page and put the “c” list on the far right side of the page. In the middle there should be space for a 4th column, a blank space for now.
  5. Finally, reviewing both left and right side columns, answer this question (placing your answers in the middle or 4th column):  "From the left column, what single item can I slightly, subtly adjust or change that will lead to one of the items listed on the far right column?"

Repeat this question 3-4 times coming up with 3-4 subtle things you can change or adjust within your own style that will affect and even impact others in the organization to change their behavior and ultimately their performance.

Continue to Part 2: "Affecting Change Within an Individual".