Conscious change leaders have greater self-awareness and a more expansive leadership mindset.
Creating success within firms requires leaders who are at once innovative and compassionate as they embrace change and support their colleagues.
Such leaders are not one-dimensional. They work across boundaries, embrace new ideas and learnings and are innovative, authentic, compassionate and resilient. They challenge dominant paradigms, and they lead and support others to thrive through change. Most importantly, they accept the notion that successful organisational transformation involves personal changes from themselves.
The Law Management Hub provide six ways to become a conscious change leader on their website.
Creating success within firms requires leaders who are at once innovative and compassionate as they embrace change and support their colleagues, writes Michelle Gibbings.
Conscious change leadership – whereby bosses have greater self-awareness and a more expansive leadership mindset – is in vogue as firms seek better results.
Such leaders are not one-dimensional. They work across boundaries, embrace new ideas and learnings and are innovative, authentic, compassionate and resilient. They challenge dominant paradigms, and they lead and support others to thrive through change. Most importantly, they accept the notion that successful organisational transformation involves personal changes from themselves. Here are six ways to become a conscious change leader.
1. Start from the inside out
It is much easier for leaders to sit back and identify how team members or colleagues need to change, rather than to identify the changes they may need to make themselves. To effectively lead change and make it stick, leaders need to firstly understand themselves and then be open to shifting their mindset, operating style and behaviour to suit the context of the change.
Authors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, who have studied why many crucial change efforts fail, note that one of the core problems is the gap between what is required of a leader and their own level of development. In their book, How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work, they state: “It may be nearly impossible for us to bring about any important change in a system or organisation without changing ourselves (at least somewhat) …”
Understanding what changes are required goes beyond pinpointing new technical skills. It is about delving into the meaning that drives a leader’s behaviour, along with the mental models they apply to the decisions they make. The prism through which a leader views the world shapes how they think, react and act. If they let assumptions and pre-conceived ideas dictate the decisions they make, they are entering into dangerous territory.
2. Uncover the bias
Bias pervades decision-making, and most of it happens at the sub-conscious level. This is because people do not make decisions on facts alone. They make decisions on hunches, feelings and gut reactions. That is not to say that all these decisions will be bad. However, the brain discards information that does not fit with its world view. It takes shortcuts when it makes decisions and it can be easily influenced. As humans, we are constantly looking for ways to rationalise and substantiate our opinions, so it is easy to be blind to the obvious and closed to other people’s opinions. Conscious change leaders are aware of this challenge and look out for influencing factors and potential blind-spots. They invite diversity of thought and welcome different ideas and dissenting opinions as they know it will lead to more informed discussion, and ultimately, more progress and better business outcomes.
3. Adopt a growth mindset
A leader’s mindset will have an impact on how a change is initiated, implemented and sustained, depending on whether they are adopting a ‘fixed mindset’ or a ‘growth mindset’. These terms were coined by the world-renowned Stanford academic, Carol Dweck. People who have a fixed mindset see intelligence as static; a fixed trait. Consequently, they want to always look smart and have all the answers. They believe that success is based on talent alone, not work. They ignore feedback and struggle to cope when things do not go to plan.
By contrast, people with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be developed through effort. They are, therefore, more eager to embrace learning, take on challenges and persist, despite setbacks. They love learning and often display higher resilience. They are also more willing to learn from others and receive feedback. It is a growth mindset that helps the leader be best positioned to support their team through change and to navigate the inevitable complexity and ambiguity that arises. Adopting a growth mindset is a conscious decision. It creates a leadership approach whereby the leader is more:
- open to feedback and able to hear difficult messages from people at all hierarchical levels;
- willing to reflect on situations and to examine how an event unfolded, so they can better understand their and other people’s reactions; and
- comfortable trying new things, which is important as circumstances may require them to step up in a different way.
4. Define moments of truth
A leader’s brand is defined by the actions they take and how those actions are perceived by their colleagues, peers and team members. People notice what a leader does and does not do, particularly when there are variances between what a leader espouses as their leadership values and their actions.
Key defining moments, or leadership moments of truth, for leaders include:
- what the leader pays attention to and prioritises;
- how the leader reacts when things go wrong and when they are under pressure
- what they say and do not say, and what they do and do not do; and
- how they allocate resources and rewards, and recruit and promote.
During a change, perceptions of inequity, unfairness and poor or absent leadership become intensified. A leader’s leadership is constantly on display, so this is the time that conscious leadership really needs to come to the fore.
5. Roll with it
It is easy to get excited about a new change initiative. A leader can get swept up in the initial enthusiasm for the change and then be overly optimistic about delivery timelines and benefit schedules. But as the work starts, challenges will inevitably be encountered. Obstacles and roadblocks that were not expected will arise, making progress slower and more difficult than planned. What looked easy in the beginning may seem much harder in the middle.
It is at this point that project deliverables start to be de-scoped, activities re-prioritised and resources shifted. A leader has two options: to lose their nerve, or to confront the challenges head on. Conscious change leaders are ready to step up to this challenge. They focus on:
- eliminating the friction in the system that makes the change harder than it needs to be. This may involve removing bureaucratic processes and unnecessary activities;
- being clear about the project’s goals and what every person in the team needs to do to get there. They do not get side-tracked by interesting but irrelevant matters;
- problem-solving and looking for different ways to make the change happen;
- the progress that has been made and keeping it visible. They celebrate this progress in a way that is meaningful to team members and stakeholders, without ignoring the challenges that lie ahead; and
- the work necessary to deliver the most effective results – quickly.
6. Step up and lead
Last of all, conscious change leaders are curious and open to how the change may unfold and the role they and their team needs to play. They know their role and its importance. They do not delegate it to others, and they accept they cannot do it alone. If leaders want to accelerate their progress in complex environments, they embrace their role in the change and empower those around them to act. They step up and lead.