Leaders are responsible for maintaining a healthy culture in their workspace, office, department, or organisation while embracing change and diversity. There are many ways that leaders can guarantee that their respective areas of responsibility are performing consistently at their peak and remain positively engaged.
Technology and society are continuously changing, making change fundamentally vital with no room for stagnant leaders. Outmoded, “it has always been done like this” is merely an excuse that can cause unnecessary friction with those who are pursuing or see value in change.
When leaders do not change or are resistant to change, the organisation will not transform—a blanket statement for all organisations, big and small. It does not matter how big the organisation is, nor the wealth spent on consulting experts, incentivizing employees, or project proposals. If leaders within the organisation do not adapt and adjust their vision, it will be nearly impossible for the organisation to do so. The need for transformation gives rise to vital figures, as is the case with "agents of change." Makeover, transformation, change... these may have several definitions but, commonly, they imply a transmutation between an old model and beliefs towards something new.
The role of an agent of change can be filled by anybody who is a free-thinker, one that is well-acquainted with their roles and makes decisions. These agents can look at the present, envision the future, and produce a structured plan that can embark their followers on a journey.
Looking at the role of an agent of change, the critical step is to permanently provoke and generate actions that promote transformational thinking. This must be done by working directly with personnel in an organised manner. Similarly, it is expected to have a direct impact on culture and processes. Transformational thinking is typically tailored to a problem, idea, solution, proposal, or forward projection; highlighting the ideal future. Never-ending sources list different fundamentals that make up agents of change. Michigan State University and IT University of Göteborg described some fundamental similarities worth listing. Consider the following qualities of an effective agent of change:
1. Collaborator and excellent mediator.
2. Empowered and committed to the leadership
3. Influential actions
4. Drives, promotes and develops practices that trace the desired future.
5. Develop and believe in a vision.
6. Accepts advice and deviations.
7. Make suggestions for changes and corrections.
8. Recognize that change and transformation are both processes.
9. Consistently maintain a positive attitude
10. Encourages continuous improvement
11. Must be determined to drive changes and sustain them until confirmation.
Beware! Like with most efforts, some limitations must be known. When leaders are comfortable because they know the past of the organisation, know how business is done, understand the process deeply, and are good at what they do, it makes it difficult for them to move from those paradigms. Those that are generally comfortable tend to "act" the transformation, but never get deeply involved with the process. This may be particularly dangerous to the transformation because those in power delegate to their mid-managers and expect them to manage the change while they, themselves, do not get involved. Being comfortable and having an inflated ego creates an indisputable mentality in many cases. This makes it difficult for people to dialogue and labels individuals as poor communicators who are difficult to work with and will not reach a consensus. In extreme cases, it can be perceived as narcissism.
Another concerning area is professional incompetence. Simply put, when those in positions of power lack a thorough understanding of the fundamental skills required to lead a workplace. This was perfectly explained by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, who said: “competent leaders cause high levels of trust, engagement, and productivity [while] incompetent ones result in anxious, alienated workers who practice counterproductive work behaviours and spread toxicity throughout the firm.” A professionally incompetent leader can be overwhelmingly destructive to an organisation as it cannot offer the guidance, mentorship, and professional advice that peers and employees need. Professional incompetence can also be attributed to a lack of knowledge. Professionally incompetent leaders cannot commit to something because the likeliness of complying is not clear enough and their decisions may contradict themselves.
Correspondingly, fear of failing, ridicule, and making mistakes are also contributors to friction and denial that can slow down processes. All the aforementioned limitations are contributors to the slowdown of processes that will inevitably delay decisions.
Albert Einstein once said that “without changing our patterns of thought, we will not be able to solve the problems we created with our current patterns of thought.” To challenge our patterns of thought and become an agent of change, there are some individualities to follow that can be incorporated through daily practice, training, coaching, and productive dialogue. These must be conveniently articulated in continuous programmes because they will not work if not practiced sporadically:
1. Become an organisational visionary.
2. Generating sustainable small actions over time can have a stimulating impact.
3. Work to stimulate and unlock peers' and employees' potential.
4. Training makes perfect; makes processes more fluid.
5. Listen, you are not always right.
6. Create trust.
7. Supports others in times of difficulty and frustration.
8. Always look for improvements and do not conform to the “we have always done it like this” mentality.
9. Improve your emotional intelligence by reading and informing yourself.
10. Strive to be a good communicator and embrace your style. Use your style to communicate your ideas and reasoning.
11. Think beyond yourself; always act in ways that benefit the entire organisation rather than just yourself.
Embracing change is part of leading organisations. If someone cannot change because of their unwillingness to consider the obvious, then it is safe to assume that they will never be able to effectively change the organisation for which they work.
Revising policies and dynamics in an organisation’s management and leadership team can assist in identifying leaders that are unwilling or opposed to change, incompetent, selfish, and complacent. Highlighting these leaders will allow the organisation to make hard decisions for the good of the population to improve the overall talent. Taking no action, as it relates to failed leaders, is the easiest course of action – do not expect much to change if not addressed properly.
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