Change Agent

Being a great leader these days almost implies that you have to concurrently be a great change agent as well.  I agree with the correlation as the rate of change of both how we live and how we work has accelerated. It feels like we have been saying this for the last 20-30 years or so. In this context of constant change, the ability of leaders to orchestrate change and do it quickly is a key competency for sure.

But being a change agent is truly not for everyone and not all items requiring change need the same type of change management. For example, if an organization is changing its T&E policy, the kinds of leadership/change agents required to make sure this is done successfully would be very different than if there were a more urgent matter such as a competitor launching a new and better product that you were not prepared for. The latter may require much faster decision making, involving far fewer people and dealing with much more ambiguity. The latter change agents are also likely to upset the status quo crowd, who might feel left out of the discussion.

The myth I would like to address with very successful change agents (and leaders) is that they are somehow one-dimensional in their approach (thus being very predictable) and that they are loved by everyone. The reality is quite contrasting. When business is good, it is easier to be a loved leader. But when times are constantly challenging, as they are now for many businesses, the fact is that you cannot be an effective change agent and be loved by everyone at the same time.

I was once told that if no one dislikes you, then you are not doing enough to change the world. In my 3rd book, Is Today The Day, I interviewed many Stage IV cancer patients, almost all of them literally on their death beds. One of the more consistent themes they shared was their regret in not taking more risks in life, even if that meant upsetting a family member, a boss, or an institution.

Now I am not advocating you embark on a crusade to tick everyone off. What I am suggesting is to take inventory of your friends and workplace relationships. If there aren’t people that dislike you for what you truly believe in and for your efforts to change things and make life better for your employees, customers, and friends, then you are not doing enough to qualify as a change agent. And by default, to qualify as a leader who can lead in challenging times.


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