Are You Encouraging the Change Leaders?

There’s a reason that real-deal change leaders are so valuable: there’s often not many of them, at least initially, inside organizations. Within the context of a change effort, that’s all well and good…at first.

You see, often meaningful change begins in the hearts or minds (and preferably both) of an individual or two, maybe even a small handful. However, it’s impossible for a legit change to take place and be sustained if only a couple of folks are passionate about it and committed to it.

In successful change efforts, the group of change leaders should grow over time. Without that group gaining mass and momentum, nothing much worthwhile is going to happen.

A lot of people will tell you that significant change can’t happen without the CEO leading the charge (not just passively “supporting” the change), and they’d be right; but it goes much further than that. Others from throughout the organization have to come together and develop a shared zeal for the change. Together, they have to be committed to helping make the change happen.

So you see, this is why people with the ability to see where an organization can go and the guts to work to make it happen are so very valuable to an organization. If you’re one of those, keep on keeping on. And if you’re not necessarily wired that way, find people who are attempting to lead change you believe in and figure out how to lend your unique skills and abilities to the effort.

From an organizational perspective, we ought to be looking for the folks that are leading change, initiating things, and pushing us all to be what we could become. It’s those people who are undoubtedly some of our organizations’ greatest assets. Frankly, the future of your organization just might depend on them doing their thing. So encourage the catalysts. Give them room. If you empower them in meaningful ways it’s far more likely they’ll do meaningful work.

As organizations, we need to understand that they just might make a dent in the universe if we let them. And even if we don’t let them, they’ll probably do it anyway–just not with our organization. We have to realize that people like that are too valuable to waste, and that if we do waste them, we shouldn’t be surprised if they long to go where that value is appreciated.

10 thoughts on “Are You Encouraging the Change Leaders?

  • Matt,

    As always, another great post! If you have been in your organization for any length of time, are pushing change and it just isn’t happening, then maybe it’s time you go to another organization (or start your own). A real change agent will not wait forever for change to take place.


    • Thanks, Mark. Really appreciate you stopping by the site and commenting. I’m a big fan of your stuff ( too, of course.

      It seems that navigating that tension (between staying and trying to make a difference or going somewhere you feel you fit) is pretty tough for most folks. There’s this magical line somewhere–the line that before crossing you’re a crusader, change agent, and catalyst within the organization; and that after crossing you’re just frustrated. I don’t have that frustration right now, which I’m grateful for; but I’ve been there before.

      Looking back, I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences though. They exposed areas in me that were weaker than I thought, and forced me to wrestle through ideas around motivation, ego, humility, and understanding. They were also instrumental in fueling my excitement about organizations, culture, leadership, and, well, people.

  • Matt,

    Every cell in my body agrees with you! I deeply believe that the answers our organizations, our communities and our countries are seeking are within our employees, our vendors, and our customers waiting to be discovered and unleashed!

    I recently read a great blog post on SmartBlog for Leadership titled The Answers Are On The Floor. The Author’s comments provide concrete evidence of what is possible when those change leaders are unleashed!

    Have a great day!


    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Chery! I’ve often said that many organizations will never know what untapped brilliance is sitting dormant in the hearts and minds of disengaged employees. You’re spot-on.

  • Matt,

    This is so true. If organizations don’t let people make a dent, then they will find where they can. The people that are change driven, meaning they want to affect change, want the opportunity to do just that. Leaders need to enable it for the good the team members and the organization.


    • Thanks, Jon. I agree with you–it’s incumbent upon leaders to find ways to encourage and channel those sorts of folks.

  • Great points here. Two ways to help this along:

    1. Engage Subject Matter Experts on your project team. While they may not be true change leaders, you can leverage their passion, get them to truly understand the WIIFM and help grease the skids.
    2. Establish Change Representatives. If you are doing a large change, you can find people that you can “deputize” to help you drive messaging, as well as eyes on the ground.

    • Great thoughts. Specifically in regards to your second suggestion, I’m a big fan of utilizing that sort of thing as well. It’s a component of a broader philosophy of organizational change that I like to use. I like the “deputize” verbiage. Might have to steal it. 🙂

  • Agree with Mark Arnold 100%. Chalk it up to personal observation and experiential learning, living and leading it. And it’s a shame to see it stagnate or meet opposition in the credit union movement. So much great work to accomplish for the greater good of society, yet too stuck at times in status quoh-no comforts and fear of the unknown/uncertainty.
    I’d love to see integration and full-on thought flow from all change provocateurs in all business lines. Creativity and Innovation is ever present in….HR, Mktg, IT, Finance, Ops, Sales/Service, and Executive Arena. What about our Boards?
    Fresh and/or renew minds, fresh and/or renew talent, and Fresh Boards too.
    Be well and thanks for keeping it real, Matt

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