Management of Change pt 2 – Leadership Foundations

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I continue the series on Management of Change by guest writer Gary Borland.

Enthusiasm and Optimism are not enough
Like change management, the bookshelves, libraries and online resources offer so much (at times apparently conflicting) material and advice that many simply don’t use any of it. Combine that with coaches, mentors and consultancy firms promising you things they can’t always deliver, and you could be forgiven for thinking that only the particularly gifted can manage or lead. That said, combinations of all of these are required if we are to develop into effective, high performing leaders and managers, rather than simply assuming that osmosis, appointment to a leadership role, experience and a liberal dose of enthusiasm and optimism will win the day.

Leadership and management are both vital components of a healthy organisation, whether church or a wider ministry, and individuals invariably discharge elements of both. However, the larger the change, the more leadership is required. For the purposes of this series, I offer a simple, imperfect description of leadership:

Creating what isn’t, rather than managing what is

If we assume that organisational drift is predicable without leadership intervention, then a key role of leadership is to intervene in that drift and make something happen that wasn’t going to happen already.

Equipped to lead change or transformation?
Sadly, many organisations, including churches, are littered with leaders who have not been equipped to do what is asked of them and lack either the self-awareness, knowledge or experience to do anything about it. Where that applies to the overall leader, the organisation is at very serious risk of stagnation, underperforming, choking off talent and future leaders, or worse, complete breakdown and failure. If combined with a culture where measurement is seen as a crude practice that only businesses indulge in, then the stage is set for mediocrity at best.

For transformation and significant change to be successful, we need equipped leaders who have the ability to:

  • Stand for new possibilities (if you know how to get there already, it’s a plan, not a possibility)
  • Intervene in what is currently predictable and achieve a step change in performance
  • Fully own their organisation’s future and create a range of options to fulfil that future
  • Develop strong disciplines in the way they think, listen and speak
  • Engage people effectively throughout the organisation by enrolling, rather than telling them
  • Cultivate their own learning
  • Bring clarity and accountability to commitments
  • Commit even when uncertain
  • Set objectives/outcomes which exceed their previous experience
  • Confront and resolve intractable issues
  • Seek dissenting opinions
  • Develop the ability to unlearn by embracing how much they don’t know

Keeping healthy on the move
Designing and delivering major change or transformation can be likened to changing the wheels on a bus while it’s driving along the motorway. The organisation doesn’t stop moving, yet significant, additional capability and capacity is required, which introduces risk and the need to manage not only the programme, but the loading on individuals and teams. Knowing what to stop is as important as knowing what needs to be done; the empowerment of others to prioritise work is vital. Work-life balance and wellbeing of everyone should always be high on a leader’s agenda, but particularly during periods of significant organisational change. Failure to look after yourself and your people will ultimately lead to a failure to deliver the bold vision, but more worryingly, will damage and may break people in the process.

We have now considered how to establish great leadership, how to make a sober assessment of the ‘now’ state and how to define an exciting vision. Next week we will look at Strategic Planning.