Helping organizations learn and adapt constitutes diving into the local, micro approaches that incrementally transform the enterprise (Frohman, 1997; Meyerson, 2003).
The allegation is made for leading change efforts to make a difference above and beyond that of managing change (Gill, 2003). While effective change management is crucial to planning and implementing efforts, change leadership is said to sustain these efforts by inspiring, empowering, and motivating individuals through spiritual, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral dimensions (Gill, 2003).
The role of a leader as a change agent involves creating a synergistic alignment of organizational goals with individual values, needs, and interests to inspire and motivate change (Gill, 2003).
These individuals begin by recognizing that all interactions create opportunities and choices (Meyerson, 2003), which have the potential to successfully alter human systems when painful adjustments are conquered within ourselves first (Quinn, Spreitzer, & Brown, 2000).
What Makes a Great Organizational Leader?
Leadership styles and personalities tend to remain the same regardless of the circumstance (Goldsmith, 2011), which may prompt some to look beyond the activities that take place on the job.
Great leaders usually exhibit an internal commitment to making a difference through action-oriented maneuvers that focus on results (Frohman, 1997) and tend to avoid the pitfalls of excessive change efforts (Stensaker et al., 2002).
Advanced change theory (ACT) states agents of change possess internal value systems, acknowledge and embrace the inherent nature of hypocrisy and paradoxical behavior, and have a reverence for freedom of choice that can foster true self-discovery and collective change (Quinn et al., 2000).
Although they may not be considered true organizational leaders, historical individuals such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jesus Christ are said to embody the essential elemental characteristics that empower people via honest confrontation and dialogue, eschewing the traditional, transactional assumptions that can cloud and hinder change efforts (Quinn et al., 2000).
Arguably, these elements of personal change fittingly apply to efforts of organizational change as well, which are factors that I personally apply to communication strategies for social change here at Minerva Films.
Outside of the famous examples of great leaders capable of motivating and inspiring organizational change, I feel that my father has been one of the resounding figures of inspiration for achieving my personal and professional change goals.
For quite some time, I resented my father for bringing me up in a Jehovah’s Witness household, where I attributed my deleterious behavior as a consequence of understanding that I was born gay, and being taught this was fundamentally wrong and immoral.
Instead of taking on the attitudes and responsive turns of a tempered radical (Meyerson, 2003), I became enraged, resistant, and bitter towards myself, others, and with life in general.
This negative cycle continued for several years, culminating in three lifetime DUIs and spending fourteen months in prison.
All the while, however, my father was relentless in taking on the role of a tempered radical by focusing less on feeling demeaned and threatened, and more on helping me see the importance of “making effective choices in the moment” (Meyerson, 2003, p. 59).
One of the most difficult times I had in prison was when I felt that the safety of my life was in jeopardy, forcing me to be placed into solitary confinement.
During a time that I believed organized religion had caused so much negativity and strife in my life, it was paradoxical that the most comforting words made available to me came from a passage in the Bible that my father shared with me.
“God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Somehow, my father saw this as an opportunity to create framing language and rhetoric tailored to my situation to generate a vivid message of hope and inspiration that motivated me to adapt and survive (Gill, 2003).
While in “the hole,” my father had spear-headed a family-wide initiative to have letters sent to me every day, which in hindsight reminds me of the benefits that can materialize when leaders are able to involve themselves in a “Daily Question” process (Goldsmith, 2011), for the sake of being in touch with the realities of life, reminding us of what is most important to focus on for that particular day.
Although my father and I may never see eye to eye on certain important issues, his tempered style has shown me some important distinctions in life, which have fostered some important changes.
I learned that it is pointless to resent or attack someone who believes fundamentally different than myself, and that any effort to change the system should be focused more on myself, instead of the closest person representing that system.
Also, I had to change my expectations and definition of having a relationship with my father, and I had to stop blaming everything outside of myself for my prior actions and bad behavior; being shown the paradoxical nature of life helped me to see how the practice of freedom of choice implemented today translates into what I become tomorrow.
Taking personal responsibility seriously has opened the door for me to feel much happier now, to continue doing what I feel is right, to align my actions with my values, to unabashedly go after my dreams, and try to help others do the same (Goldsmith, 2011).
I may never become a religious person again, but I do see the value of remaining spiritually aware and moving away from unbalanced self-interests and more into altruistic, action-oriented behavior (Quinn et al., 2000).
Holding Leaders Accountable for Ensuring Change
Initially, I thought it would be logical to respectfully remind others that there are no guarantees in life, including efforts set forth by change agents in ensuring successful organizational change implementation.
Change, and its inherent necessities and processes, are easy to understand, but very difficult to make happen (Goldsmith, 2011).
Marshall Goldsmith (2011) takes on a perspective that appeals to me. He says that if change doesn’t happen, he doesn’t get paid (Goldsmith, 2011).
While Dr. Goldsmith is certainly in a position to have much more confidence (and experience) in his abilities to create true individual and organizational change, this fee-setting strategy has the potential to do something profound for me.
It would mean that if I decide to engage in any type of change behavior, for myself or others, I better be willing to do everything I can to make that change possible, and perform the due diligence needed to increase chances of success; otherwise I won’t make my bills.
Would you ever take on a brave challenge such as this in your own work?
Being happy and feeling fulfilled doesn't have to be something conditional that comes to you in the future, not if you have the opportunity to open your mind to the wonderful possibilites that abound for you right here, right now, this moment, today.
While I may not have ventured into offering my services for free if no change comes from a given business engagement, I do hope to one day become successful enough to offer such a deal. Until then, I plan on becoming a better leader and professional each day, and look forward to surrounding myself with others who feel the same.
Frohman, A. L. (1997). Igniting organizational change from below: The power of personal initiative. Organizational Dynamics, 25(3), 39-53.
Gill, R. (2003). Change management – or – Change leadership? Journal of Change Management, 3(4), 307-318.
Goldsmith, M. (2011). BPI – What got you here won’t get you there: Helping successful leaders get even better [Online webinar]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzNeK5MFMfM&feature=youtu.be
Meyerson, D. (2003). Tempered Radicals: How everyday leaders inspire change at work. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Quinn, R. E., Spreitzer, G. M., & Brown, M. V. (2000). Changing others through changing ourselves: The transformation of human systems. Journal of Management Inquiry, 9(2), 147-164.
Stensaker, I., Falkenberg, J., Meyer, C. B., & Haueng, A. C. (2002). Excessive change: Coping mechanisms and consequences. Organizational Dynamics, 31(3), 296-312.