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Getting Leaders On Board With Change

Updated: Mar 30

How to approach leaders that are stuck in tradition and often struggle with changing or trying something new.

I’ve been a futurist for 20 years, and at just about every conference I’ve presented, someone has come up to me afterwards and said something similar to this:

“I agree with what you say about the need to change, engage younger generations, and plan for the future — but I can’t apply it. I’m not the leader. And the people I work for have no desire to change. The people I work for are stuck in the past.”

This is a space where many people exist, working in an organization underneath a leader or board of directors who either can’t or won’t be open to the concept of change. As a result, these team members feel powerless to innovate. They have ideas, but they believe they have no voice.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In the 20th century, leadership was the equivalent of power, fueled by a top down, ‘do-it-because-I-said-so’ approach. It was a role that had to be earned over time, restricted to people with significant experience and a specific job title.

In its era, this approach to leadership was effective. Here and now, this approach is highly ineffective.

Here and now, organizations need leaders who are willing to disrupt the status quo and be open to new ideas and solutions. Here and now, the best leaders are visionary and add value to an organization—not slow it down or kill initiative.

Regrettably, too many people think about and define leadership as though we’re still working in the 20th century. They think leadership remains limited to positions and titles and say things like “my leader won’t change”.

If you haven’t heard it before, I will say it now: A leader who refuses to change isn’t permission to be complacent. It’s an outdated, irrelevant notion that people in ivory towers, sitting at mahogany board tables should grant someone permission to lead.

You can influence positive change on your own.

Feeling uncertain? Keep these points in mind:

Leadership isn’t a title.

You may not be the “boss”, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader. Leaders step up to add value to people, wherever and whenever it’s needed. If you can share an idea that sparks energy towards a goal, you can lead. If you can help a colleague who is struggling, you can lead.

Focus on what you have the power to change.

You can’t force people to change their minds or behaviors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t influence a change. Think about your daily interactions and responsibilities and ways you could approach each differently.

Actions speak louder than words.

It’s easy to point out that change needs to happen — anyone can do that. Complaining and creating divisions are ineffective and make matters much worse. Focus your energy on team-building, finding solutions, and bringing people together to make positive, meaningful change happen.

Seek to understand.

We expect our CEOs and boards of directors to have all the answers and make all the right decisions, but that’s an unrealistic expectation. If a leader in your organization is refusing to change, ask yourself why. Maybe they’re afraid of failure or unsure of what decision to make. Try to put yourself in their shoes and see things from their point of view. Empathy is important in a time such as this one.

Add value always.

You can impact the lives of people who report to you, serve alongside you, or carry more responsibility above you, simply by looking for ways to add value at every opportunity. Leaders understand that every day is an opportunity to display their value to the team, and they fuel that value through personal growth in areas of skill and character.

Here and now, we are in desperate need of leaders, people who want to use their influence to create positive change in themselves, their workplaces, and their communities.

Don’t wait for permission. Don’t sit back and complain. Complacency isn’t the answer.

Step up to the plate. You can’t change everyone or everything, but you can change your own attitude and approach and make a meaningful difference. Let’s have a conversation.


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