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Change and Inspiration


I was speaking at a Conference recently and noticed there were a number of presenters talking about change. Change to the sector, change to processes, change within organisations. Most speakers championing the mantra of change were CEOs or Government leaders within a range of educational organisations. Their key tenet was the need for people to accept or embrace change. The paradox is that change does not come easily to humans. For real change to occur, people often need to make painful adjustments to their attitudes and behaviours. It seems leaders spend more time articulating change, because traditional models of change reinforce that it all starts at the top, than doing it. Often times however, the rhetoric is not backed up by evidence that the leaders themselves have made any painful transition. The common process for change seems to be – Step 1: Leaders tell us to change; Step 2: We accept (or do we?) and effect change. Surely there is more to it than that?

These thoughts promoted me to reflect on the concept of tough empathy in leading to inspire, discussed in our last newsletter, and the nexus with effecting personal change. I read articles on leading change and discovered an uncanny link with leading to inspire. One article used the term ‘carefrontation‘ which had similar meaning to tough empathy. Meg, when reflecting on tough empathy said, “staying in our comfort zone makes it harder shift and easier to say, ‘no big deal’ if nothing happens. Often making people feel uncomfortable results in a shift.” Inspiring leaders I spoke with reinforced the need for people to move out of their comfort zones to be open to inspiring moments. For us to effect personal change we must step outside of our preferred patterns of behaviour and tolerate uncertainty. Some theorists call this living on the edge of chaos. Obviously, this can be a scary place for most of us. To ensure we have the confidence to place ourselves outside our comfort zone, we need to have a sense that taking the ‘risky’ step will result in a change that moves us closer to our true potential.

Helping people connect with and see their potential is a critical dimension of leading to inspire others. Meg indicated, “leadership is being able to see things in others they can’t see themselves.” Stephen Covey goes even further by stating, “Leadership is communicating to people their potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.”  In change literature, authors advocate that leaders can help people enact change by inspiring them to to become their ‘best selves‘. One author suggested, “inspiring others to be their ‘best selves’ is where leaders enable followers to achieve their full potential whilst maintaining respect and dignity for them.” The catch is that leaders are only able to do this by creating a vision with others that is congruent with their potential. One CEO reflected on his experience in creating his vision to change the organisation, “I had this grand design and vision and I thought I could articulate it and get people lined up. It did not happen. It absolutely did not happen. I realised I had to get everyone engaged in the process.”

Summary Point
My research on leading to inspire others reinforced the need for leaders to co-create visions with others to cultivate inspiring moments and enable people to take action towards their potential. This view contradicts contemporary leadership theory that advocates the need for leaders to inspire others to follow their [the leader’s] vision.

Are you prepared to move out of your comfort zone and co-create a vision that embraces everyone’s need to reach their potential?

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