Many companies right now want to create positive and sustainable, forward momentum. They want to have a regular string of short term wins that are always producing more positive changes. However, after the first or second short term win, many start to fade and loose momentum.
John P. Kotter in his book, The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations (Harvard Business School Press, 2002) reminds us that after a short term win, effective leaders do the following:
- use increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision.
- hire, promote and develop employees who can implement the vision.
- reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes and change agents.
But when we dig deeper into his writing, we discover some important clues about how to continue moving forward. First, reinvigorating the process means reinvigorating the leaders involved in the process. We forget that the credibility of the leaders during change is interconnected with the credibility of the process. They are interrelated and symbiotic. Each one helps the other. Yet some times after the initial short term win, leaders burn out and then push in unproductive ways to get things done. They default to “poor behavior,” e.g. command and control with the emphasis on control.
Therefore, we must separate role from self. We need to not work so hard that we physically and emotionally collapse, or sacrifice your off-the-job life. Instead, we need to focus on only doing what we can do best, and aggressively rid ourself of work that wears us down. For example, tasks that were relevant in the past may not be now. Therefore, we need to focus on what you can delegate so you can focus on what you do best.
Second, we need to understand that with the “power of the chair” needs to come an awareness of the importance of “respecting for the chair.” Quoting the Spider Man movie with great power comes great responsibility, we need to remember the difference between executive power and legislative power. With the former comes positional power but at times we also need to use the later, i.e. build a collation of people to move a solution forward. But there is a deeper understanding to this concept that highly effective leaders and experienced leaders understand and demonstrate.
First, in the world of leadership, there is the acquisition of knowledge to do one’s job. Here, the learning focuses on the gaining of knowledge, facts, material, content and meaning. This learning can be seen as a “possession,” i.e. knowledge as property. For many leaders, being in their positions means that they have control over doing something. Therefore, their learning has a clear end point and their competency is based on being able to repeat something.
Nevertheless, there is a second level of leadership which relates to the execution of knowledge. The critical depth of this learning comes through participation. Here the focus is on the learning to become something, i.e. a member of the community of those in the position, profession and/or practice. With it comes an understanding that we as leaders are part of a larger community of leaders. In this circle, competency is relational rather than intellectual. In short, we become part of the “community” with other leaders.
This is why respecting the chair becomes so important. You and your chair are part of a community of chairs. You do not own it. You are a care taker of it. And you will pass it on to another in due time.
This week, ask yourself the following two questions:
- What do you want to be known for as a leader?
- What do you want the position to be known for?
These answers will help you personally move forward and produce sustainable changes.