Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Change Leaders Embrace Humility

I once heard it said that there is no package as small as a person all wrapped up in themselves. This caution against pride is a bit humorous, but so very true. Not only can pride destroy relationships, corrupt organizations, and prevent personal growth, it can also be a major barrier to transformational change.

First, it is a barrier to change in the life of the one attempting to be a change leader. A change agent full of pride will never be a change leader. Nobody will accept feedback, encouragement, and coaching from a leader full of pride. This is an easy pattern for a leader to slip into, though. A good leader is supposed to have the answers, right? A good leader has experience and education that can enlighten their team, and when the pressure is on to make change quickly a leader must lead by the force of their confidence and pride. The problem of this approach is lack of sustainability. At best the organization won't "own" the change, they will simply comply. At worst the organization will fall apart due to infighting or resignations. The result is the same: half-hearted support of change that will backslide at the first opportunity.

Secondly, pride is a barrier to change in the life of the one who needs to embrace change. "How dare that leader come into this organization and pretend after a few short months that they know how to do my job better than I do!" This is unfortunately an all too common form of resistance to change. While the attitude can be justified any number of ways, in the end its root is pride. Sometimes a resistance to change is little more than offense taken to personal pride. Change is seen as a threat to a person's influence and power base because it levels the playing field between experienced icons and inexperienced newcomers. Just ask the former leaders of General Motors who wrote off the threat of the newcomers at Toyota. GM finance executive Nancy Rottering, who quit in frustration in 1987, said the attitude at headquarters was, “We’re GM. We know everything, we don’t need to change.”

This discussion reminds me of a great little story about a navy captain and lighthouse operator, well dramatized by the clip below (you can download this clip at changefreak.com/links)...

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