“God made you a leader to move people from here to there; to make people discontent with the way things are.”
— Bill Hybels | Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church
Despite your beliefs, the above quote holds true. If we are leaders, it is our duty to point out that we are at point A, that point A is unacceptable, that there is a point B, and that there is a way to get to point B. Too many leaders are comfortable in the status quo, that happy purgatory where nothing is quite wrong but nothing is entirely right. Unfortunately, the stagnant pond is an unhealthy one.
I worked a brief stint at a company that was stuck in its ways. There was nothing fresh in the company and any attempt at something fresh was promptly shut down. Two common phrases at this organization were, “I don’t think people will like that very much” and “we’ve always done it this way.” If we’re truthful, the “people” in the first phrase are the people raising the complaint and the fact that “we’ve always done it this way” is not a comforting truth. This second phrase ties in nicely with my previous blog, Leaders Learn.
Both of the two phrases are not only flawed arguments, but they are also poor excuses for why someone won’t lead. If we’re honest, leadership is hard (I don’t think we need to dig too deeply for that truth). Leadership can easily leave people feeling left out or with hurt feelings even with the most stringent precautions. However, this shouldn’t hold us back from leading people. If we love the vision of the organization and love the people who serve that vision, then we will understand that there are some necessary actions needed in order to carry out that vision.
It’s important to note that leaders should not be out to hurt people’s feelings “for the sake of the vision.” Charging under that banner is sure to cause bitterness toward leadership and the organization. However, major organizational decisions (or lack thereof) should not be hinged upon the statement, “So-and-so is really not going to like this change.” Realistically, a majority of the people just don’t like change and need to be talked through it (and that’s okay!). The leaders job is to talk through this change, listen intently, respond tactfully, and adjust as necessary.
A mistake in the opposite direction would be to make changes without telling anyone. This is a surefire way to lose people. I often hear quoted that “1/3 of your people are always willing to change, 1/3 of your people are never willing to change, and the other 1/3 of your people are waiting to be convinced either way.” You always want to talk change over with your influencers (the first 1/3) in the organization, and then spread the news in a friendly environment where the ability to address questions is available.
Change is important and navigating it is a leader’s main challenge in leading. You must not let the 1/3 who will never accept change make major decisions for you.