Leadership in change: change driver or change inhibitor?

03 November 2014

Change is the buzzword of this decade. In all areas of public life (politics, economy, education, health care, etc.) we are facing major transitions. Like it or not, everyone is talking about how our world needs to change thoroughly in the next few years.

Logically, the need for effective leaders in change management is high. Therefore, a self-respecting manager has change management listed as the absolute number one on his or her competence profile.

And this is where the problem lies. In contrast to the image the media gives about CEOs, they find nothing humanly strange when it comes to fundamentally changing their own behaviour.

M.F. Kets De Vries demonstrates that leaders are not always rational human beings and that rational approaches to management that assume that people can only be guided by logical and suitable ways of organisation, are based on a wrong assumption.

Be the change you wish to see

In fact, the main idea that managers - from whom everyone expects that they can be a pioneer of thorough transitions - in practice, are often the first and largest blocking factor for change, will definitely surface. Why is it that managers are rarely the change that they have to lead?

There are essentially two answers to this question. The first has everything to do with contextual factors. In our still very dominant hierarchical way of thinking, we expect nothing more or less than omniscience of a manager or policy maker. No matter how great the fast tracks for high potentials have been drawn up, in critical moments, many companies consider their senior management still as the only source of all wisdom, against better judgement. That towering expectation from your immediate surroundings causes a manager to automatically create a distance. The context forces you to abstract and literally and figuratively places you above the change.

The context causes managers to stand very far away from the change they need to realise. And that they also face little or no impact from it.

The distance to the transition is inversely proportional to the level of involvement on that same change. The lower in an organisation you address people about necessary changes, the more openness you will find for the necessary changes in processes, systems and procedures. The less the messenger is affected by the changes he/she announces, the bigger the cynicism on the side of those who receive the change message.

That brings us to the second answer to the why-question. It is not just the context that often makes managers a blocking factor. Their lack of self-knowledge is also responsible for that. Anyone who can organise and manage as a manager, but is totally out of balance as a human being, may save costs on the short term, but on the long term, he will infect the organisation with his/her immaturity; he/she will demotivate employees because he/she projects his/her unconscious desires and emotion on his/her employees.

You limit yourself if you do not have good insight in your strengths and especially if you do not know what you cannot do. In a context that expects nothing more or less than omniscience, that requires permanent decisiveness in a merry-go-round of crucial meetings, the overview of what you are capable of as a manager can become clouded on more than one occasion. Only very few people are really in touch with what Mr. K. De Vries calls, "the Inner Theatre", especially the unique mix of genetic luggage and experiences as a child that result in motivational needs and determine an individual's personality. This introspection or gaining insight in to my inner theatre is the opposite of narcissistic leadership: for the narcissist, the world is a mirror.

These two shortcomings at level of company leaders can be very destructive for any organisation. Because anyone who leads in continuously changing environments must be able to lead themselves first.

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Every transition process we jointly achieve is unique, as are our clients. Mutual trust arises due to our personal way of working and our passion, yet also because where necessary, we opt for client-specific solutions above 'easy' standard methods. Essential to achieving the common goal.

This trust implies that we have had the pleasure of working with the following clients:



Strategic workshop and accompanying training
Project Management for infrastructure projects in EMEA
Change management as part of a SAP implementation
Creation of a quality certification and quality manual • Coaching on organisational development
Support of the move to new premises
Support in setting up the Call Center
Integration of Distrigas and Nuon within ENI
Management development training (leadership, leadership roles, ...)
Support in drawing up a new management contract (vision, strategic objectives, KPIs, ...)
Reorganisation and optimisation of the HR department
Process optimisation and support to change management within SOUL project (safety culture)
Audit of contract management for subcontracted operators
Individual Change Readiness Survey and training for 300 executives to work differently
Support of the move to new premises
Support of the merger and of discontinuing the operations
Business-IT alignment and IT strategy implementation
Support of various change programs, including interim management and crisis management