Updated: May 9, 2022
Leaders Need to Be Transformative Change Catalysts
By Quang Le, CEO, Le Transformations
Part 3 of 4
Organizations worldwide are scrambling to find solutions as the pandemic lingers, multiple crises collide, and uncertainty prevails. In these times of unprecedented turbulence, how can organizations protect their interests and lead disruptive change? Fortunately, leaders, today can discover how they can navigate their enterprises toward transformation.
The challenge: While most executives know how to lead in times of stability, those skills don’t work in times of volatility and uncertainty. In response, a new frontier of Change Leadership has arrived and is helping leaders acquire the requisite skills.
We will present these “new normal” leadership behaviors and skills below, but let’s first look at the leadership landscape today.
While there is ample intelligence about how leaders can respond to change, a pulse check shows a poor level of leadership performance and staff engagement in the last decade and particularly during this recent period of upheaval.
According to McKinsey (2015), 70% of change efforts fail—not because the change ideas were bad but because leadership didn’t prepare their staff effectively and didn’t vet support throughout the organization.
Leaders and staff typically fear the unknown. Today, in particular, the lessons of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) are ever-present.
In a VUCA world, the best way to minimize risk is to adapt to new work challenges. The stability of the past, where managing risk meant limiting your exposure, doesn’t apply today as most companies are exposed one way or another. When the risk of failure is high, the question is: Will leaders help their company shift before it’s too late? Timing is critical, and responding to disruption isn’t the time to start assembling a response team. Leading change in an age of uncertainty requires your team to exercise new ways of working, leveraging feedback from stakeholder groups, and applying the essential skills of teaming. Overall, while leaders typically yearn to maintain the status quo, they need to be change catalysts and restore a sense of calm during these stormy times. Leaders themselves must change their behaviors and be role models.
Indeed, the world is forever changed, and the one certainty is that continuous and disruptive change is here to stay. So what is the solution? We need a new breed of leaders who are can navigate and lead change. We need not only transactional but transformational leaders who will embrace change. Leaders who are aspirational. Leaders who encourage staff to experiment, reward learning rather than punish failures, encourage innovation and challenge their own preconceptions of how things work.
No, great leaders are rarely born, and all leaders are anxious about how to proceed. But change leadership can be nurtured. They can be trained to lead change and not be led by it.
Today, with so much at risk, leaders can’t afford to be complacent about change. Indeed, they need to equip themselves with the essential skills to lead change…because change isn’t something you can delegate without fully understanding your own leadership responsibility.
Here are some compelling statistics that document the need for a new breed of leaders:
7% of CEOs believe their companies are building effective global leaders (McKinsey)
91% of employees say their managers aren’t good communicators (Interact-Harris).
22% of employee teams say their leaders have a clear direction (Gallup)
63% of Millennials say there is a lack of leadership development in the workplace (Deloitte).
77% of organizations are currently experiencing a leadership gap (Elucidat).
82% of employees don’t trust their boss to tell the truth (Forbes).
81% of employees are ready to leave their jobs, 79% because leaders don’t appreciate them (GoRemotely).
56% of employees think leaders should update their skills to support a virtual workforce (CIPHR).
Disengaged employees cost organizations up to $500 billion each year (inc.com)
42% of employees strongly agree that leadership has responded effectively to the pandemic (Perceptyx).
Where to Start?
Increasingly, organizations are seeking solutions to re-set their strategic course, but where can they turn? Change always starts with the individual. Leaders need to look at their own change skills to determine what they need to address and then decide how best to close existing gaps.
We encourage leaders to ask themselves a few questions:
Do you view change as something to address just when things go wrong?
Do you view change as a hindrance to performance?
Do you think change strategy is an overly costly investment?
Do you struggle to find opportunities to capitalize on change?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be change-averse. You’re not alone. Most individuals report that change means stepping into the discomfort of the unknown. But with the right tools and strategies, you can be a proactive change catalyst and learn skills to help you lead change instead of having it lead you.
Subscribe to Transformations to learn what the New Normal Change Leadership skills are in Article 4 of 4.
About Le Transformations. Le Transformations (LETS), a pioneer in the field of change leadership, is a leading change strategy consulting firm based in Washington, DC, with clients worldwide. LETS helps leaders navigate disruptive change and engage staff. It specializes in industries that are most vulnerable in the new normal, including healthcare, manufacturing, retail, hospitality, automotive/transportation, and real estate. LETS' approach features a blending of technology, processes, staff, and leadership, with a particular focus on culture. Leadership change coaching is a key part of LETS' services. For more information, visit www.LeTransformations.com.