5 Qualities You Must Have To Lead Change

Over the past several months it seems that every young couple I am around is having a baby.  All at once these young families are multiplying.  Having two kids myself I am in on a secret that these couples are learning:  Babies change your life!

Maybe it is the twisted side of my personality, but I love to hear these young parents talk about the lack of sleep they experience.  I remember those days well.  

While growing your family is a fantastic thing, it is a shocking change to a young couple.  As small as a baby is, the change it brings is massive.  These little bundles of joy prove that change, while loved and wanted, is not easy.  Recently I had a young dad look at me and say, "I don't know if I am ready for this!"

Leadership demands the guts to initiate change.  Much like a young parent, leaders are often shocked by what is required to lead the necessary changes for your organization.  Tension, hard conversations, telling someone "no" and being on an island around your idea can cause a leader to wish they had signed up for some other profession.  Here's the good news, you can be ready for it!  Below are 5 qualities you need if you want to bring leadership change in any area.


While I wanted to use the word "passion", it just did not carry enough weight.  I have seen passionate people give up when they lose the feeling; called people press on even when they are tired.   Calling is best described as a holy discontent.  There is a spiritual element to it.  Calling emerges from deep within our heart and soul.  To lead long-term change, one has to be called to do so.  If you are driven by emotion or to prove yourself, you may be able to do some good things in leadership.  Those who effect long-lasting change possess the guts that come from knowing something in your life will be incomplete if you leave things the same as you found them.


Our culture does not like to tell the truth.  Why?  Well, because often times the truth hurts.  Truth is, some people in leadership lack competency.  You know this.  Some of you work for those leaders.  Leading change requires you have the goods to make things happen.  Are you good with people?  Can you sell an idea?  Do you understand the balance of when to push an agenda versus when to allow others to win?  Are you too passive?  Too combative?   The best leaders learn to scale their competency.  They study, learn, evolve.  Do not think your capacity today is enough to lead the changes required for tomorrow.


I do not care for touchy-feely language.  Sometimes the word "culture" is viewed this way.  That is small-minded.  Here is another word:  Behaviors.  Culture is simply defining, communicating and holding team members accountable to a specific set of behaviors.  Here is how I have had success shaping culture.  Without leadership in this area you will not be able to create healthy change.  Brilliant ideas are suffocated by unhealthy culture.  Conversely, average ideas become worth millions of dollars when they are born in a life-giving culture.  Think of your culture as the foundation you build the building on.  It matters.  Nurture it.  Be the leader your team needs and do not dismiss it.


Most people avoid crisis.  Leaders leverage crisis.  Leaders do not run from it, they run to it.  When leading change, a crisis can be your best friend.  A crisis can serve as a catapult to change.  Leaders emerge when crisis occurs.  It may be helping individuals work through the situation, providing a team clarity amidst the confusion of the moment, or modeling calm as those around you settle into panic.  Leaders are steady and moments of crisis allow other to see this.  Beyond earning personal credibility for the leader, crisis can also prove the need for your change.  What you are attempting to do should solve a problem.  If a crisis is specific enough your change may prove itself as the fix.  


One enemy of leading change is trying to lead too much change.  When leaders constantly have a new approach or new system, they risk looking like a flake.  To model consistency, follow this simple pattern:  First, decide the major changes you need to make.  Do not attempt more than 2-3 over the course of a six month period.  Next, formulate 50% of the strategy that will be your solution in your own mind.  Then form a team and create the remaining pieces of the strategy together.  Once this is crystallized you need to create simple, memorable ways to communicate your plan and repeat those words over and over and over again.  Put those words on repeat in your heart and with your team.  Be prepared to get tired of saying it.  Once you tire of saying it, you have just started saying it enough!  Change does not happen with good ideas, it happens with disciplined execution.  Be consistent to get the results you want.


Leadership is hard.  Leading change is hard.  The results are worth it.  You are ready for it.   Press on!