How to be an agent of change
- Leaders do not have to wait on resources to be the catalyst for change
- Leaders face the inevitability of change, whether or not they act
When it comes to leadership literature, there are many models for cultivating organizational change. This includes infographics, diagrams and acronyms across both scientific and empirical theories that suggest a person will better lead with the right combination of expertise, passion, vision, structure and resources.
But what happens when we don’t want to change?
What many traditional hierarchical structures fail to identify is that we are all agents of change, whether or not we want to be. All action and inaction alike feeds change. Even doing nothing, for an extended amount of time, creates change. Not productive change, but change nonetheless.
Even though we are all agents of change, it can often feel as though we need to have the right circumstances and resources or opportunities to affect change. We often feel we are missing something or not ready. In reality — and this is the underlying lesson of a team-based leadership class I teach — we are all capable now.
These leadership studies students are given no funds, no mobility and strategically minimal instruction around a team project that they take on while simultaneously studying leadership styles, competencies and profiles. As we move forward through the semester, finding checkpoints and navigating the power and perils of teams, students solidify a larger vision and mission. Their reason for moving forward becomes less about a grade and more about impact.
This class is a good example of what’s possible. Small groups armed with nothing more than a purpose, a framework and ongoing leadership studies, have gone on to raise thousands of dollars to fund elementary and middle school programs and equipment. They have made hundreds of dog toys out of donated t-shirts, raised awareness about animal care and cruelty, broken down community silos, increased mental health awareness among students and so much more.
Leaders in the business world face similar ambiguity and team challenges, and most were never given an academic space to explore their ability to create real change in the world. It might help to remember that doing nothing creates change as well, just not the change we’d like. This is exemplified by companies, like Kodak, that refused to adapt and change to market demand.
In today’s fast-paced environment, it is even more imperative that leaders cultivate a strong sense of confidence and vision to create positive change. It might sound cliché, but once this is in place, anything is possible.
Further reading on being a change agent: https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2012/04/02/5-things-you-can-do-to-be-a-change-agent-at-work/#21ea669f6c43
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