Leaders as role models for change. Can you do it?
The no 1 most important factor when you want your change project to succeed (benefit realization) is “active and visible executive sponsorship”*. It means, that the sponsor (s) for the specific change continue to support it, act in accordance with it and take every chance to speak about it and give examples of behaviors and individuals that show the ability to work and behave in the desired new way.
But in many of the change projects that I have been involved, this isn´t the case. So how do they do it, the leaders that actually perform as sponsors for change and act as role models for the organisation?
#1 It requires the ability to commit yourself long term. To do this, you must truly believe in the change and the organizations ability to actually “get there”. Come hardship, you are prepared to stand up and defend it . Working through quarterly reports, budget cuts, new challenges and other managers giving up around you but still driving the change. Stay true to the decisions you once made.
#2 It requires knowledge about your own strengths and weaknesses, combined with a sincere wish to develop and grow as a human and as a leader. This means that you fully accept that you will also have to change the way you behave, accept to fail and try again while the organisation is watching. Admitting that you also have to change and grow seems to be one of the hardest parts of change for many managers.
#3 It requires that you wisely use the support of specialists , internal och external. Don´t just leave the change to specialists, that will only show that you don´t think it´s important, no matter what you say. It´s what you DO that matters. Too many leaders think their part of the job is done once they have engaged a specialist in the project. Then they safely go back to doing what they did before. And also making it harder for the change to succeed. Use the expertise, learn and make sure you are the one associated with change, not the specialist.
Is it easier if you are new in the position? Or if you have been there for a while and have credibility with the organisation? My experience is: it doesn´t matter. It´s who you are and how you behave that determines the success. And I am equally impressed each time I meet a leader that has the stamina, the courage and the wisdom to act as role model for change.
*Prosci Inc “Best practices in change management” 2016 Quote: “For the ninth consecutive study, active and visible executive sponsorship was identified as the greatest overall contributor to change success”.