Implementing Change

The beginning of a new year instils in many of us a desire for positive change. As leaders, we envision positive change in our followers, teams and organisations, as part of our commitment to, and need for, continuous growth and improvement. Change is however a challenge. For many of us the natural reaction is to want to change circumstances, people, the opinions of others, the motivation of others, their attitudes and efforts…the list goes on. These are all external factors in which we want to see an improvement and there is nothing wrong with wanting that. However, there is something wrong in seeing this as a starting point to a turn-around. Real change lies within you, especially as a leader, as Gandhi so wisely advised:

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

According to Boyatzis and McKee, personal transformation is not at all easy. Focusing on what is wrong around us is a scapegoat, while facing your own shortcomings is hard work. If, however this initial hurdle is overcome, then the rest of the path towards positive transformation is a much smoother ride (not without its challenges, but with fewer obstacles). Overcoming the challenge of personal transformation is one of the key ingredients for resonant leadership, and resonance is contagious. In the same manner, dissonance also travels from leaders to their followers. Therefore, positive changes in an organisation, the office environment, or anywhere for that matter, can only take place if we start at the right point – ourselves:

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we see.” – Barack Obama
Self-discovery is one of the first stepping stones on the path to personal mastery, and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) plays a major role here. Your EQ plays a role in your level of hope and optimism, and it is this hope and optimism that eases the process of having a real good, honest and realistic look at ourselves. This is where self-regard, as an essential ingredient of your EQ comes into play – the balance must be just right. A healthy level of self-regard is not too high, but also not too low. Furthermore, it is hope that enables us to trust in and envision our dreams. It is the ultimate motivator: “Optimism, like hope, means having a strong expectation that…things will turn out all right…despite setbacks and frustrations.” – Daniel Goleman. In relation to envisioning our dreams, according to Goleman, change starts with specifically the Ideal self, for which, once again, we need hope. We can only consciously make the right choices towards a better future by first envisioning a better future. Therefore, we see that step one in terms of positive change is to envision the person you would like to be: “…making lasting change requires a strong commitment to a future vision of oneself.” – Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee. As indicated, your ideal self and your EQ are strongly connected and when healthy, lead to a passion and an energy that is so powerful in terms of change because it rubs off on your followers. Professor Warren Bennis agrees that positive self-regard is not only necessary in leadership, but it stems from emotional wisdom.

The end-result of following the above-mentioned process is the ability to radiate resonance: a catalyst towards positive transformation in an organisation. Teams and followers will be enabled to accomplish great things as a result of being inspired and uplifted. However, only a leader’s commitment to sustaining this resonance truly empowers teams. This is a challenge. The stress of being a person in charge calls for being in charge of self, which can be exhausting. After all, resonant leadership involves body, mind, heart and spirit. As a leader you may go through the experience of power stress and the sacrifice syndrome, which is linked to chronic stress. Power stress is an experience that results specifically from “the exercise of influence and sense of responsibility felt in leadership positions.” – (Boyatzis & McKee.) The solution to overcoming the negative effects of power stress and the sacrifice syndrome is ‘The Cycle of Renewal.’ Again, hope plays an essential part in renewal. Along with compassion, meditation and especially mindfulness, one can reverse the negative effects of stress and sustain resonance optimally over time.

Although leadership is hard work, Goleman believes that leadership is a skill that can be developed by ordinary people and that its main goal is to enable and empower others, especially when it comes to change. Richard Boyatzis’ Intentional Change Model can help to successfully achieve personal transformation.

“In the context of executive coaching, leaders can talk about things that they feel pain and passion about – and really get at the core issue for themselves, their teams, and the organization.” – Daniel Goleman

By Tanya Little

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