Leader as Change Agent

Of all the roles that leaders play, acting as an agent of change has probably evolved the most over time. At one point, leaders who could successfully guide their team through transitions stood out from their peers. Today, being a change agent is a necessity, and organizations desperately need leaders who can champion and support change. 

So what types of change are leaders currently facing? Maybe it’s a restructuring of teams after a merger or acquisition, adjusting operations to respond to consumer demands, or scaling operations to deal with volume, or adopting new technology that impacts every part of the organization. In any of those situations, managers need to have the foresight to see oncoming disruption, have the courage to speak up, and the influence to galvanize the team. 

In that sense, change agent leaders are positioned on the front lines to sell the new idea, or approach the people who will be implementing it, to engage them and get them on board with the transition. Convincing people to accept and embrace change is a monumental task. It takes targeted communication, it takes influence at a much higher level. That’s where a leader as a change agent can make the difference between success and failure within an organization. 

As a leader, here are five ways you can excel in your role as change agent champion. 

  1. Understand your change style preferences and the preferences of those on your team. Leading others through a transition requires a solid understanding of how you personally deal with change. Your own natural tendencies may, or may not be helpful as you guide others through the process. It’s good to have some self-awareness around the issues so you can make adjustments. For example, you may thrive under conditions of constant change, but many on your team may prefer to preserve the current procedures and processes. Knowing that at the start, you can start by building on what is already working versus replacing processes wholescale. 
  2. Provide context. People are much more willing to be flexible when they understand the purpose behind a change, or what’s at stake if they don’t change. They can’t believe in and commit to something that requires major upheaval unless they understand why it’s necessary. For you, that means explain, clarify, and reinforce. Share the vision, objectives and benefits.
  3. Think from their perspective & share. Just like many companies try to become more successful by immersing themselves in the customer experience, you can apply that same concept to your team members. Think about the employee experience of going through this change. What would they want to know, or what would frustrate them? How can you make the transition less disruptive? When you understand their perspective, you can inform them with the intent to overcome their objections upfront. Mentally walking a mile in their shoes will give you the right mindset. 
  4. Get the team engaged in the change process. Work to build consensus about change. Work to gather their input and insight, involve them in the process early and often. You can foster real commitment by encouraging their participation in the process. When they truly buy into the transition, their sense of engagement builds positive momentum for everyone on your team. 
  5. Generate enthusiasm about the process. Change is hard, but influential leaders know how to approach the process as an adventure instead of a catastrophe; an opportunity instead of a disaster. Accentuate the positive and model resiliency. Communicate in a way that creates real enthusiasm about the transition as it can make a world of difference. 

As the pace of the business world continues to accelerate, the role of leader as change agent will evolve and become even more important. If you wanna be successful on a larger scale, mastering this role will be pivotal for your success.

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