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Tenet #10 - Ten Tenets of Change Management

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by Larry Pendergrass, Principal

Tenet #10: Be visible. Be involved.

“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” — Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s words are rephrased but echoed by many leaders, writers, thinkers and philosophers from Lao Tzu to George Patton. In times of ease, the leader leads from the rear, perhaps taking a little risk by pushing others forward, but enabling ownership, growth and development. In times of great danger, a leader leads from the front, clearing the path and showing, not just telling the way. Periods of great change are seen as periods of danger in a business organization. In your change management project, you must be out in front, fully visible and highly involved. It is not enough to stand and the rear and point the direction. Remember that you are charting a course into scary and uncertain territory for your organization. Many will fear for their jobs, or at least fear the way their tasks will need to be performed after the change. Having a leader that is as fully committed to the success or failure of the project as the change management team, one who has the same agenda and stands to lose or gain in the same way is essential to obtaining the necessary dedication from the team.

Leaders show their priorities by when they are visible and where they spend their time. It’s not only important that you reiterate the vision and state it’s importance of change in formal gatherings. As Stephen Covey has said, “What you do has far greater impact than what you say.” You signal the entire organization concerning the primacy of a given project by whether or not you show up to status meetings, mention the progress at your organization-wide presentations, publicly recognize individuals for their significant contributions and work to clear the path for project success. For example, when you give priority to the purchase of key enterprise software in order to implement the plan rather than forcing the request to the back of the line as is the standard process, your actions speak volumes to those involved in the change project.

Max DePree has said “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” Robert K. Greenleaf coined the phrase “servant leadership” in the essay “The Servant as Leader” in 1970. It’s principals are even more powerful today. At its core is the concept of acting as an enabler to those in your organization, clearing the path to make them more successful. This tenth and final tenet could be paraphrased as acting as a servant-style leader, being visible, being involved. Do not delegate this critical change management project completely, even to your most trusted employee. If this is a critical juncture in your business, if this is a time of danger, if this is of the highest priority, if you want people to follow you, then you must show ownership for this project.



“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”

- Rosalynn Carter

These are words of wisdom. I would add that a great leader takes people where they ought to be with a full understanding of how to move minds, to shift hearts and to bring people into a new vision of what the future will bring for them. A great leader understands how to take people through the grief of change to not only acceptance but embrace this change. The great leader understands change management and knows that painting the right vision is only a small fraction of the work the leader must do to move an organization. The great leader knows how to lead people to their own realization of the need for change, and of the power within themselves to accomplish, even drive that change.

As my good friend Scott Elliott has said to me:

Q: How many business leaders does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Just one - but the lightbulb has to feel the need to change.

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