3 Ways to Change as a Leader

May 10, 2016



Good leaders are trusted and offer clarity, which is built upon consistency. Great leaders are able to identify areas of needed change within even themselves...


As a pastor I get an opportunity to participate with people in from various stages starting from birth to death. I was officiating a funeral for someone that people kept referring to as a pillar. This was a person that was a pillar in the church, at the workplace, and within the community. As I listened to people describe this individual during the service, though, I realized that they had made some big shifts and changes through their life. Part of what made them a pillar was not their steadfastness, but their adaptability.


As leaders it is important for us to be consistent, but this doesn't mean we are always the same. Maybe the mark of a good leader is the ability to reflect and change. Here are three areas that are vital for good leaders to constantly be reflecting upon and ready to change:




I took a class (as in a single class) on Japanese jujutsu. We worked on footing and some throwing techniques. We practiced changing our stance, because we wanted to be in the best position to harness an opponents energy. Martial arts like karate focuses on striking an opponent, while jujutsu teaches movements that allow you to grapple someone and utilize their energy. Instead of hitting someone that is running towards you, you change your stance to the side and push them through, thus throwing them. 


There are moments in leadership when we are tempting to simple shut someone down or to continue leading in a way that is shutting certain people down. A "my way or the highway" approach. If you are feeling like you are battling other people and struggling to get things done, ten maybe it is time to step back and re-envision the way you and others are trying to solving a problem or trying to accomplish a task. Maybe instead of working against others it is possible to work with, and even for, them.




There is certainly a core narrative that we leaders help shape and develop for our groups and organizations. But our volunteers, staff, community audience all have differing pressure, needs, and ideas of success. We should be adapting our approach and messaging to the various people within each audience.


When I started writing sermons I would always write to a general audience. I wanted to reach as many people as possible. My stories were general and ideas abstract. My sermons were designed to fire like a shotgun, with the hope that if the scatter was wide enough someone would be hit. Instead, though, it seemed that my sermons did not resonate with anyone or at least not on any deep level.


A wise mentor once told me not to write anything for a general audience, even the pieces that were sent to a general audience. Write specific concrete stories with three people in mind. Why three? Because it is more diverse than to a single person, but not too wide that it won't connect with anyone. I shared a story about failing a class once in a sermon and I had so much feedback. Congregants who had never gotten a B in their life to those who never attended higher education, could relate to this real story of dealing with failure. 




What we sometimes interpret as resistance to change is sometimes really a group that doesn't underwent the change. 


Oftentimes, what looks like resistance to change is really employees who don't understand the change, don't want it or are unable to do it. Effective leaders need to engage employees' brains by explaining the "why" and "what" of the change in order to help them better understand the vision, mission and goals. Paint a clear picture of the target and the end game. Explain the why and what of change, reiterate the vision, mission, and goals. It is important to remind people what the goal is, but we are constantly needing to clarify what that means. 


Good leaders are trusted and offer clarity, which is built upon consistency. Great leaders, though, are able to identify areas of needed change within their organization and within themselves.

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