Great change leaders empower others
To create an unstoppable, energized team and enterprise—you can’t just tell the rest of the organization what to do. Instead, leaders are clear with the organization about what success looks like, what change is necessary to achieve it, and why it needs to happen. They involve diverse teams from across the organization in a dialogue about what needs to be done, and how to achieve the goal. That’s how you generate the energy necessary to make a change.
We’ve all heard of leaders who envision an exciting change of direction for their organization, loudly publicize that vision to their external stakeholders, then attempt to push that change into the organization. They don’t engage with the organization, get their hands dirty, work side-by-side with the other leaders, or engage in a key dialogue about why this change is happening. Our experience (and yours, I’m sure) is that leaders who preach to their organization—or pretend they have all the answers—tend to meet a level of resistance (or even worse, ambivalence) that slowly and steadily strangles the proposed change.
We believe deeply that strategic initiatives and operational plans can’t be decided behind closed doors by a group anointed by top leadership, or by external consultants or other experts. When these mysterious plans are unveiled to the broader organization—generally with much fanfare no one should be surprised that initial excitement gradually disappears and the organization fails to deliver on these directives from on high.
Tap the energy of others
If you want something done right, do it yourself. This dusty adage sometimes holds true in life, but we don’t believe it applies very well to organizations—unless you’re the only person in the organization! You cannot build a team, a business unit organization, or a business without engaging others to help do the work. Even the most energetic leader can’t go it alone.
Great leaders we’ve seen know how to lead from the front, from the middle, and from the rear. They know that energizing their organization is really about them and their aligned team engaging with the organization. If you’ve ever experienced an entire executive team working alongside other key leaders on critical issues, you’ll understand how exciting this is for an organization. The very best leaders we’ve worked with know—and accept—that they will not achieve extraordinary results all by themselves.
Involving a broad, deep group of leaders is critical if you want to create significant change in the organization. The great change leaders give a chance to lead to those who already believe in the change—or who are beginning to believe in it. Great change leaders empower others to solve business-critical issues and give them permission to implement solutions that fuel the change agenda. Letting go can be one of the toughest challenges that leaders face. But in our experience, it’s one of the most critical actions a leader can take when trying to make significant change.
Give People a Voice
The new generation of leaders wants a voice. In fact, I think we all want a stronger voice. People want to be heard (at the very least), to be engaged in what is going on. They also understand that they aren’t in charge, though they definitely want to be asked for their opinions. For example, the leader of a major American aerospace and defense company we work with often asks a wide range of associates for their opinions about inherently complex issues—and that very act of asking creates energy in the business.
Think back on your own career. How energized were you when a senior leader asked for your thoughts? Everyone remembers when they’re included in the process. So now, as a leader, ask yourself this simple question—Who did I energize today by asking for their ideas and opinions? Generating energy is that simple.