Lead Change  

Leadership Competencies

An organization needs a well defined set of leadership competencies, which it can share with their employees at all levels in terms of expectations. All roles need to demonstrate leadership, but not all leadership competencies are required by all roles. The level and intensity of leadership will change depending upon if you are demonstrating the same at individual level vs. managerial level vs. strategic level.

Lead Change

Well clued onto the environment- both internal and external. Identify the change opportunities and works on them. Anticipates the waves of change, and stay prepared. Build competencies of change management and adaptability within the teams. Maintains the perseverance and tenacity to drive and sustain the change.

Demonstrating at Individual Level                   

  • Is quick to recognize situations or conditions where change is needed: This is partly linked to fostering innovation. A leader will be able to spot the areas, where change can lead to improvements. He achieves it through sheer power of observation, analytical mind-set and openness to do the things differently.
  • Makes recommendations and suggestions on needed change: Very few changes can be done in isolation or at an individual level. A leader will be engaging his fellow team-members, his customers, his sponsors and other stakeholders to get the support and funding for making the change happen.
  • Supports and stays engaged in strategic level changes: A leader will constantly seek clarity on how his life will change with a change in organization strategy and priorities. He will use the goal-setting and feedback sessions to maintain that clarity. He will go through all the communications from the senior management. He will openly share his anxieties and confusions with his stakeholders to ensure that he gets the answers. He will extend his genuine support to the organizational strategies and cascade this spirit within his network.
  • Positively accepts and deals with changes that affect work: Organizational priorities will take precedence over individual level aspirations. A leader will stay engaged through the process of change, as organization steers the ship in a different direction. This change may bring in a changed portfolio of responsibilities, imparting more work-demands, doing new things which demand accelerated learnings etc... A leader understands that change is inevitable and must for an organization to survive and thrive.
  • Adapts or shifts priorities in response to the needs of clients, constituents or the organization: The first step in leading change is to accept it and then adapt to it. A leader firstly understands the implications of change and then works diligently in changing his priorities and goals.
  • Embraces and Responds to Ambiguities: One never gets answer to all the questions as change descends on us. A leader will not expect to have his manager provide all the answers. He will also takes the responsibility to get some answers by himself. The issue is that sometimes no one has the answer. In that scenario, a leader will accept the ambiguity and work along with it (rather than against it). To handle ambiguities, a leader will:
    • Create a set of assumptions and work on them, while constantly validating them.
    • Take calculated risks.
    • When the exact data is not available, he will take a calculated guess.
    • Check on how others in the industry are handling the same situations etc...

Demonstrating at Managerial Level

  • Acts as a change agent making other see the need for change: A leader makes the change happen through others in many different ways. He drives the change, he encourages the change, he sponsors the change and he acts as an unseen catalyst for change.  A leader makes people understand the change is as inevitable as a weather change. He makes people understand that if we don't manage the change, the change will manage us. He provides compelling pitch that if we don't change; we will not be able to survive. He spreads the message that it’s not only a question of changing, but it’s a question of changing fast.
  • Gains buy-in or willing participation for change initiatives: This is perhaps the most difficult part. Even in this era of fast change, most of the change-leaders have to work against the resistance to change. The fact is that most of us accept change as the last option. We don't chase the change, but change chases us. Most of the cases, change is thrust upon us as a fate accompli.

In this context a leader has to apply many tricks to have the people being pro-active. He has to:

  • Engage people on the short-term and long-term benefits to them (we are all selfish and we always look for what is in it for me?)
  • Share the reality of today's environment, and how the change is inevitable...
  • Sell-hard the benefits to the shareholders and customers due to the change.
  • Builds a sense of ownership within the people on the change. A leader makes others feel that it’s not his but their own idea.
  • Creates rewards and incentives for change.
  • Helps others translate new change goals into practical implementation steps: The devil is in details. The best argument for a change is to make it happen. A leader takes deep involvement in implementing a change. He addresses the anxieties and unknowns around the change. He works with his team to develop additional and required skills. He helps the team to get the appropriate infrastructure and resources to deliver the change initiative. He also provides his expertise in creating a detailed implementation plan.
  • Embraces change and helps the work group adapt without disruption of productivity: Managing a change without disrupting business as usual means that you may have to rewire the building while keeping the lights on, or in other words change the gear-box of a car while driving. Making significant changes while running your regular business needs creativity and lateral thinking. The sponsorship for change initiatives becomes easy when you can convince shareholders that it will not be at the (or with minimum) cost of disrupting our business. The biggest concern around a big change is possible impact on delivery to customers.
  • Coaches others in accomplishing goals in changing circumstances or an unstructured environment: A leader sets the context of the reality that faster the change, lesser will be the clarity around the change. Shorter is the time available to change, more will be unknowns and more will the set of assumptions one has to work with. Less time you have to start your journey, less time you will have to study your maps. Therefore, instead of being bogged down with responsibility to give all the answers, a leader will make his team share the ownership to handle the change and ambiguities.
  • Helps others to clarify situations where information, instructions, or objectives are ambiguous: This is the other side of the coin to handle the change. On one side a leader has to coach his team to manage ambiguities, but at the same time, he will do all what he can to provide as much clarity as possible.

Demonstrating at Strategic Level

  • Initiates changes in response to the cues in the external environment: A leader will keep his eyes and ears very close to the ground, and anticipate the changes in external environment. He will keep on doing extensive information gathering and keep on revising the organization SWOT.
  • Takes action to reinforce people's belief in change initiatives: A leader will keep on working till people understand that executive is serious about it and their destinies are linked to it. A mere engaging articulation is not enough. Sponsorship, involvement and driving organizational changes are few actions, which will make people get more committed.
  • Sponsors change initiatives: Gets funding and resources for the change initiatives. Work on addressing barriers to the change. Sell-hard to the shareholders, keeping them engaged and manage their impatience.
  • Ensures that organization structures and systems encourage flexible response to change: A leader will work on adding flexibility, nimbleness in the way organization structure is designed. Few examples are:
    • Flat structure with lesser layers.
    • Encouraging natural teams around initiatives.
    • Develop competency centres which provide the tools for change.
    • Creative incentives and rewards around change etc...
  • Create an environment where people stay connected with the environment and competition: The best way to create a change friendly environment is when people see how competition is managing change to beat their company.  A leader talks extensively on how the market is doing and what our organization should do and where they should change to make it happen
  • Develops and uses the organization’s strategy to provide clarity in an ambiguous business environment: Organization strategy is one of the best tools to provide clarity around the change, as it is the one which is asking for change. Strategy provides the big picture on why change is needed. It provides the details on the environment, competition and company's priorities, which is resulting in driving the change.