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Seven Attributes of Change Leaders

How can organizations change? Given my interest in perpetual learning and continuous improvement, I find this an interesting question whether you are talking about a small team or an international corporation. While organizations can slowly evolve by accident, significant transformational change only happens due to focused and deliberate effort. The people responsible for championing this effort are often called change leaders.

At the recent ICE Technology Conference I attended a presentation by Katherine McLean, PMO Director at Deloitte Global Services, who presented seven attributes – personal characteristics – that successful change leaders must possess. While I did not agree with all of her points, I was able to identify additional characteristics from my own experience.

1. Initiative

A deliberate change starts with an idea or vision of a better way, or at least a belief that there is a better approach. Initiative is required to act on this belief and go beyond the status quo.

2. Commitment

Organizational change is almost always a lengthy process with long-term and not short-term benefits. In order for the organization to commit to this change process, you as the change leader must possess and demonstrate your commitment.

3. Passion

Being truly passionate about the change – your vision of the better way – will help on a number of levels. On a personal level passion will help supply you with the motivation and courage to carry through with the change. When dealing with others, if you are able to demonstrate and communicate your passion for the change, you will have a much easier time obtaining the buy-in you need.

4. Motivator

You need to be a self-motivator to maintain a high level of motivation concerning the change. Possessing commitment and passion for the change will help greatly with this. Perhaps more importantly is the need to motivate others to accept and sustain the change. You cannot carry out organizational change by yourself.

5. Courage

Significant change will often impact existing power bases and norms. There will always be people satisfied with the status quo or resistant to change in general. Courage is needed to proceed with the change despite the resistance or even active opposition to it.

6. Caring

Change imposed on others without regard for its impact to them will seldom last long. You need to care about how people will be impacted by the change and how they will be treated during the change process.

7. Perseverance

Difficulties and obstacles will arise during the change process. You need the perseverance to continue towards the end goal despite setbacks or roadblocks.

Organizational change is not easy, especially not for the change leader. If you are involved with or contemplating it ask yourself which attributes you possess and which you may need more of in order to attain success.

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