Through research and consulting expertise, we’ve identified four key traits leaders should possess if they want to successfully champion a business transformation.
According to McKinsey’s research, about 70 percent of all organizational changes fail – that’s why strong leaders are more critical than ever when you’re trying to successfully change the fabric of your business.
Following the past year of disruption, the role of the leader has become increasingly complex. Businesses today must be more agile than ever before, which means leaders who can clearly communicate a future vision and enact change are in high demand.
In a Forbes article titled “1 Reason Why Most Change Management Efforts Fail,” author Brent Gleeson said, “the need to lead change is growing, but our ability to do it is shrinking. Transformations also run into problems when leaders get mistaken as managers ― leaders must differentiate themselves by creating goals and being a catalyst for change. While managers are more concerned with day-to-day operations, leaders motivate people behind the organization’s vision.
In this blog, we’ll highlight four ways you can lean into effectively guiding change as a leader. These key traits are:
- Technical and Political Competency
- Trust and Transparency
- Emotional Intelligence
Change is never easy but if your leadership has the right tools, it can make all the difference.
1. Technical and Political Competency
Strong leaders of transformation have technical and political competencies:
- Technical Competency refers to expertise and technical skills in their field. They don’t need to know everything, but they need to have the technical knowledge to be a thought leader.
- Political Competency refers to the ability to appeal to employees and address the public affairs, both internally and externally, of the organization. Communicating effectively to a broader audience is important in times of drastic change.
Having both of these competencies helps give a leader a serious appreciation for their role in the change. A transformational leader is more than a title. Transformation leaders must persuade and influence teammates, subordinates and other leaders.
In his book “How to Develop Gravitas,” management and strategic planning consultant Victor Cheng wrote, “When you have gravitas, you get taken seriously. Your opinions and insights are respected and sought after.”
This profundity can often make the difference between leaders and managers. Managers have team members (who unwillingly or willingly report) while leaders have followers (who willingly follow). Technical and political competency arm you with the discernment to guide everyone in the same direction.
2. Trust and Transparency
If leadership is not transparent about why change is happening, they are unlikely to gain the employee trust and support needed to make it successful. Strong leaders of transformation are trustworthy, but this trust goes both ways – they must also have trust in their own employees.
It is important the people in charge of a change have confidence in their people so that instead of micromanaging them, they can let them fail and learn on their own. Leaders support their people when they fail by maintaining a positive, supportive manner. When everyone in the organization feels like they’re trusted with a role in the transformation, they feel agency in joining and taking ownership of their part in the journey.
3. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence allows leaders to align people with change and gain their support in times of transformation. In his bestselling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry defines what this means:
“Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.”
Bradberry argues people must have emotional intelligence to develop relationships with others to successfully guide them through change. Strong leaders of transformation build sustainable partnerships across the company hierarchy and empathize with people through careful listening and thoughtful response.
Strong leaders of transformation must demonstrate the courage to step up. They should not be afraid to face the facts, especially in times of change. Transformation requires leaders to realistically look at the good and bad of their organization. Good leaders have the courage to do this with enthusiasm and not avoid hard truths in order to self-protect.
Because transformations are typically multi-year journeys, they’re more likely to be successful when stakeholders have confidence in leaders to guide them throughout the course of the journey. The most successful changes are led by someone who can inspire others to see the larger outcome. When everyone is not focused on accomplishing the same thing, transformations go awry.
In his TED Talk called How Great Leaders Inspire Action, author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek said “There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us.”