Do leaders matter in organisational change?

McKinsey have recently put out a fascinating piece of research around what makes for good organisational change.

Strikingly:  “..McKinsey research and client experience suggest that half of all efforts to transform organizational performance fail either because senior managers don’t act as role models for change or because people in the organization defend the status quo. In other words, despite the stated change goals, people on the ground tend to behave as they did before..”

The article, which is well worth reading, then goes onto describe how exceptional leaders address both inward and outward issues; and the impact that taking this more holistic approach can have on their leadership and organisational performance.

Change leader, change thyself

Specifically “..It’s crucial that those who seek to lead powerfully and effectively look at their own internal experiences precisely because they direct how you take action, whether you know it or not. Taking accountability as a leader today includes understanding your motivations and other inner drives.”

Leadership in organisational change is about “do what I do”, not “do what I say”

It is such a timely reminder for those that are leading change. Often we expect people to “do what I say” rather than “do what I do.” And we provide explanations (make excuses?) for why we don’t need to do what we are asking the organization to do.  For example, the Manager who is trying to change the culture to one of accountability yet is consistently late for their own meetings. The Executive who talk about how important providing feedback is, yet don’t complete their own direct reports’ performance reviews.

Being a leader today is hard work. No longer is it enough that you are smart, that you know your stuff, that you are a technical whiz. There is so much more to it now.  Now there are very real expectations that you understand yourself, and understand how your behaviours impact on your team; and that you make a conscious decision to act in ways that are consistent with a change effort rather than detract from it.

So whilst this stuff is hard, if more than half change efforts fail because leaders don’t get it, there is a very compelling reason to do things differently.  Whilst hard, there is more and more evidence that addressing these sorts of leadership issues has a direct relationship with positive organizational performance.

And if for no other reason than it will make you more money (or whatever your definition of organisational performance is); surely this research, this line of thought, is worth pursuing.

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Tammy Tansley
I am a coffee loving, energetic human who loves words, bright colours and spots, silly t'shirts and good champagne. Mum to two beautiful mischiefs. Long time wanderer around the world. Author. Blogger. Speaker.
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