“All That Remains Is Leadership”

The desire to bring change to an organization is a stressful exercise.

Being caught up in a situation that someone wants to change is a stressful exercise.

It’s easy to forget how it feels to be in the other persons shoes.

It’s easy to become entrenched, watch only the facts that you care about and ignore all others.

Denial comes in many forms and can infect both the agents of change as well as immovable blockades.

While change sometimes occurs by blasting through an immovable blockade, it more often succeeds by finesse. Discovering mutual goals. Mitigating painful repercussions. Finding third paths.

I wanted to share Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s recent blog over at the Harvard site. “Four Tools For Defeating Denial” covers some important ground on how to ensure you don’t take shortcuts towards change that defeat your ultimate purpose and ensure that your movement towards change is based on solid ground. From Dr. Kanter:

Fact-based management is lauded as the best way to run any organization, and I generally agree. But answers will never come directly from analysis. There is always judgment and politics. When facts become subject to interpretation, or when science is discredited, then denial grows beyond garden-variety change resistance. All that remains is leadership. [Emphasis mine]

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6 Responses to “All That Remains Is Leadership”

  1. kay plantes says:

    I have often defined leadership to my clients as creating needed change that others cannot or will not create without your leadership. It’s the secret sauce in the recipe for business success.
    .-= kay plantes´s last blog ..Eliminate Compromises to Innovate Your Business Model =-.

  2. Andrew says:


    I don’t exactly have a formula to make change happen, but I do have one method which certainly doesn’t work – announce it to the media and let workers read about it there.

    I worked (on a temporary contract) for a government organization back in 2004. Due to very significant problems (relating to financial accountability) within our organization, it was well known it’s future was under review. But we were specifically being told (by senior management), that if anything major were to be decided, that we would hear about it through internal communication channels first, and not via the media.

    Alas, just a few weeks after this promise was made, one of my colleagues came around one afternoon, alerting the entire office to a news website. It was there that we read that our organization was to be completely abolished and that the programs which our organization ran would be split up into a number of other government departments. Indeed, not only did we have to read about our entire organization being abolished through the media, but there was never any form of communication about it from senior management at any stage during the entire process.

    Everyone accepted that the prior situation had been unacceptable and that change needed to happen. But the lack of respect which staff were shown during this entire process worked to ensure that the process occurred with as much acrimony, ill feeling and lack of productivity as possible.
    .-= Andrew´s last blog ..Niger Delta Crisis – Big Oil’s Big Lesson =-.

  3. J.D. Meier says:

    Pattern-based leadership is a powerful approach for making meaning and choosing paths in a changing landscape.

    Of course, the patterns come from experience.

    The secret of effective pattern-matching is filling your head with patterns from experience so your intuition can work its magic. It’s that experience and head of patterns that separates the experienced doctors and fire-fighters from the pack.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..What 25 Holiday Classics Teach Us About Life and Fun =-.

  4. Hi Andrew, What a terribly difficult situation. Under stress good communication is often one of the first things to go even though it is among the most important things in working through change.

  5. Hi Kay, Absolutely. It’s a bit funny how often folks who are hoping for change run from the responsibilities of providing direction and focus.

  6. Hi J.D., Identifying patterns can be really powerful, specially when looking across function or industries. I’ve often been in situations where common practice in one industry feels innovative in another.

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