Ten Leadership Imperatives Shape Successful Change

February 16, 2023

by John O. Burdett

In a world marked by uncertainty, ten imperatives shape successful change. Ten “must-have” attributes that enable any move beyond collaboration.

To Lead … to Make a Difference

Leadership isn’t just about monitoring performance against established standards … in a business environment changing at an ever-increasing rate, it means both continuously raising and moving the bar. It’s earning the right to lead … every single day.

In an era of uncertainty, to lead, to make a difference, draws on empathy, vulnerability … and letting go. It means giving up traditional notions of control. It’s shedding the mask … striving to live and sharing our own story. It’s building community. It’s knowing that the “soft stuff” is the really “hard stuff.” It’s the recognition that how we learn is more important than what we learn. It’s casting a pebble in the pond and being connected to every ripple.

Working in tandem with computers (cobotics); AI supported connectability between client and customer that, in the past, would have been impossible; the internet of things; new social norms; being truly values-driven when most of your team work in remote locations; responding “now” to ideas that have the potential to change the industry; the network organisation and with new approaches such as holocracy; global sharing of best practice; crowdsourcing that brings smart machines to the party; creating a digital platform to build true community; and access to technology that provides an opportunity for all-the-time, in-the-moment interaction … all imply behaviour that moves beyond collaboration.

Ten Leadership Imperatives

In a world marked by uncertainty, ten imperatives shape successful change. Ten “must-have” attributes that enable any move beyond collaboration.

  1. Curiosity wedded to a view of the marketplace that moves beyond, “How can we better serve the customer?” … to one where we (the provider) shape intent by developing products and services that the customer doesn’t yet know that they need.
  2. Inspiring leadership. This means both a compelling purpose and shared values that influence how decisions are made at every level, every day. It also implies a shift from shareholder to a stakeholder value creation as a means to measure long-term organisation success.
  3. An inherent dissatisfaction with the status quo. Not forgetting that for the change agenda to have traction, the benefits of the change being described must be greater than the emotional cost associated with that change.
  4. A map that helps us understand where we are and where we need to be. This implies measurement – especially measuring the organisation culture we have and the culture we need.
  5. Organisation design, processes, systems and tools (e.g., technology) that enable us to move to where we need to be. Here it is important to recognise that as position power gives way to influence, as it must, to succeed, the team leader works for the team.
  6. Both a formal and informal village green(s). Space where people from different disciplines/organisations “bump” into each other.
  7. A willingness to take risks and, as a result, the absolute need to build trust. Trust, meanwhile, without its alter ego psychological safety is about as useful as a painter without access to a canvas. Trust draws on four essential pillars: (i) rapport: (ii) winning respect; (iii) actions guided by shared values; and (iv) orchestrating win-win outcomes. For trust to flourish all the parties involved must also recognise both the implicit and the implied promise that underlines any conversation around trust. If poorly understood and/or defined, it’s the implied promise that most often causes trust to derail – without those involved understanding why.
  8. Team and individual capability … at the heart of which is speed of learning. This speaks to resilience, comfort with ambiguity and a serving spirit. In the environment being described, it also means that leaders who can’t coach are ill-equipped to lead.
  9. Those in leadership roles display mastery in working at the level of mindset.
  10. The courage to let go of not only what isn’t working but –where needed – what is.

Most such lists ignore curiosity. My experience is that without the grain of sand that grows into an oyster … without continuously asking “what if” questions … without aggressive reading habits … without an innate and driving sense that there is a better way …without a personal ethos driven by learning how to learn … “change” becomes what others enact.

At the heart of a “change mindset” is the conversation we have with ourselves. Central to that conversation is the language we access … same old language, same old behaviour.

This article is an extract from “Beyond Collaboration: “Co-tangle“, © Orxestra® Inc.

John O. Burdett is founder of Orxestra® Inc. He has extensive international experience as a senior executive. As a consultant he has worked in more than 40 countries for organisations that are household names. John has worked on organisation culture for some of the world's largest organisations. His ongoing partnership with TRANSEARCH International means that his thought leading intellectual property, in any one year, supports talent management in many hundreds of organisations around the world. Get in touch with John O. Burdett »

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