Leading change involves leaders in initiating change and accepting changes made by others that foster social, psychological, spiritual, or technological improvements, competitiveness, and innovation in coworkers and or programs. The goal in each case is to change peoples lives at the core. From earliest recorded history, mankind has responded to the human need all persons have to be concerned for, and a contributing part of, the development and growth of their fellows. Service to others is the primary mechanism inner leaders use to instill transformational change ideals in individual work-community members. Selfless concern for others is the mark of the mature person. It is the prime measure of success for the inner leader.
Inner leaders’ techniques of personal and follower change and transformation revolve around two orientations. First, inner leaders see the workplace as an authentic community designed to encourage growth in both leaders and followers. The focus of much of the leader’s work and the end product of work-community activity is to provide members an expanding array of experiences in doing cooperative, productive work, work that is better today than it was yesterday. Inner leaders develop and implement programs designed to apply and interpret productivity goals in the light of the work communities’ current assignments, problems, and situations.
Second, inner leaders see the work community as a prime environment within which the members can gain experience in creativity, innovation, and independent vision-directed leadership action. These work communities are the most effective places to apply ideals of interpersonal relations as jointly leader and led sit in council with each other to plan, organize, and carry out needed work. Here the leader can find opportunities to model desired standards and behavior, as well as find opportunities to let others practice similar leadership conducted under his or her watchful care.
The traditional wisdom is that to change people or social institutions we must change the structure of human relationships or of common work practices. Past change models presuppose that altering the work-community structure or instituting new work processes and systems will automatically change members to conform. This method is used in all sectors of society—business, government, and politics. People assume that introduction of new programs, new people in charge, automation, new hardware, or other innovations will effect a change in the quality of life and the standard of living of a society and the productivity or satisfaction of the workers in a given work community. So leaders impose this kind of external physical change and then manage, control, and direct followers to do what the new, altered system requires of them.
The facts of work-community change suggest something quite the opposite. Thoughtful analysis of the major changes in individual, work community, and social life highlights the fact that another, more effective change strategy is, in fact, in play in almost all change situations. To change the work culture, leaders must first change the individual workers. When workers change, the change brings about alteration in the collective circumstances of the work community.
The work environment changes most usefully as people change their values, their beliefs, their assumptions, and their expectations. It is not laws, rules, electronic equipment, or even leadership expertise that changes society. It is the result of many individual workers who voluntarily choose to accept a new value, a new behavior (Bjerke, 1999), or a new attitude that changes work environments. The only authentic, lasting change occurs when individuals independently change themselves. As workers change, their formal structures and institutions will follow.
The challenge for inner leaders is to foster this change and to direct it through articulation and maintenance of common core values acceptable to and internalized by work-community members who are helped to produce desired results. Inner leaders know that the fastest, most effective, and longest-lasting way to get institutional change is to deal frontally with the people to get them to accept new community values and expectations. Of course, changing the circumstances can eventually change people’s minds and hearts. But this is a secondary strategy that ignores values and attitudes in favor of the artifacts of the work culture, not its essence.
Fixed production practices without adaptation to new circumstances lead to a reverence for form without regard to content. Given the modern work community, the need is for innovative solutions to both continuing and new programs and services. Innovation is intrinsically different from creativity. It defines the actions of putting known ideas to work in new ways. Innovation has two aspects: (1) newness in the sense that something has never been done before by this group or work community, and (2) newness in that something has never been done before by anyone.
Creativity on the other hand, is a new idea-formulation out of known facts. A creative achievement arises when a person attempts to resolve a tension between intuition and discipline—between impulse and caution. Creativity comes from an internal negotiation between what intuitively seems to be correct and what the constraining forces of technique, tradition, and materials may require. Of course, creative ideas and insights are important, but there are many fine ideas that are easier to find and equally valuable to the inner leader and the work community in helping people and programs improve.
Inner leaders have also honed the change skills reviewed here.
Inner leaders keep their relationships with followers free of judgment and evaluation. This characteristic permits workers to recognize that the locus of responsibility lies within themselves, not outside, in the work community, with other people, or with an indeterminate “them.” Only then can followers be really free to independently change to make more full use of their inner capacities. Leading change is essentially a task of helping individuals change themselves. Inner leaders initiate helping contacts, the goal of which is for the leader to help each follower modify behaviors that both see and recognize as needing change.
This kind of transformation in people happens when leaders understand that the purpose of change is to help followers to become more whole— complete. It results when leaders understand that, by and large, followers want to use that personal wholeness to aid themselves in their work. Most followers are motivated not by outward trappings, bonuses, or challenges to greatness as a company. Rather, they—all people—make personal change as they see in that changed behavior the chance of making meaningful contribution to others through their work and in the process grow themselves.
A prime focus of this transformational leadership technique is teaching others. The objective of the teaching is to produce leaders from followers who are capable of governing themselves in terms of mutually agreed-upon vision-directed activities. Some teaching behavior is done as the leader models desired follower behavior in his relationships with them. Other behavior, such as coaching, inspiration, and setting high-quality service priorities, employs more traditional teaching and training methods. The most evident characteristic of this follower-changing leadership technique is that inner leaders serve as almost private instructors for their followers. A second powerful implication of these techniques is that leaders also build a learning culture that encourages desired performance in stakeholders. This learning culture is also a teaching tool. It facilitates realization of the leader’s values-based ideas and methods and excludes, as far as is possible, other possible follower actions.
Helping followers grow and change places a prime responsibility on the leader for ensuring that followers are successful. The leader’s goal becomes changing them in their core selves. Helping followers change places emphasis on the role of the leader, not as goal-setter or controller but as a guide to followers to help them make their most useful contribution to work-community success. Inner leaders teach new values and skills followers need to use on the job and alternative priorities followers need to honor to attain the work-community’s vision. This leadership teaching role imbues all that the leader does and all relationships entered into. Simply put, this model asks the leader to learn to be a teacher.
Inner leaders who do not keep up to date about the change going on in their work community will find themselves in the backwater of corporate life and estranged from their coworkers, for by definition they are key participants in any work-community change process. They are both agents of change and authority figures. Successful inner leaders are fully involved in the change process, sometimes as direct participants and other times as change catalysts facilitating growth in members and change in the work community. They have legitimate roles to play in every change event. The leader authenticates what the work community does and how it does it. As others in the work community desire to accomplish changes, they look to the inner leader they volunteer to follow to ratify their plans, or they see a need to persuade the leader to accept their ideas. The inner leader’s concurrence is implicitly understood to be necessary before a change can be implemented.
The purpose of personal change and transformation techniques is to help followers change their inner, spiritual selves so they can behave toward others in more authentically helpful ways. Leaders can do much to create a situation where concern for followers’ freedom of action is a recognized part of any work-situation values system. Inner leaders provide opportunities for service to those with whom they work—opportunities as personally fulfilling to their followers as the responsibility to seek growth-producing opportunities for themselves. As followers come to understand the lessons of followership and determine for themselves in what actions and which situations they grow most, their leaders also mature. This kind of reciprocal atmosphere of personal concern can exist in every interpersonal contact. Some specific things leaders can do to make the results of their service more satisfying for the follower include the following:
Inner leaders learn something of the needs for personal and spiritual development of individual followers. They can then assign followers to tasks and duties that will bring out their latent qualities and talents.
Inner leaders are alert to the problems resulting from too-frequent changes in follower assignments. Followers need time to learn their duties fully and feel a sense of accomplishment before moving on to other tasks.
Inner leaders discuss openly those aspects of a follower’s personal development potential that may result from the work assigned. This can be a regular part of the agenda for individual performance evaluation interviews with followers or be the subject of special group or individual meetings.
Inner leaders recognize that many of the interpersonal contacts followers have with stakeholders are, or can become, training experiences helping them relate better to their own work. As leaders give their followers tasks that let them practice behaviors and skills that need development as part of their work-community assignment, the followers gain valuable experience that will aid them in their developing job competence. In doing this, as the inner leader considers followers’ core needs in assigning tasks to them, followers can gain needed experience, satisfaction, and confidence in their own maturing capacity.
Inner leaders assign followers to work with others—other work-community members, customers, or clients—based on similar or complementary interests. Matching personality types will increase the learning potential of both individuals.
Inner leaders provide the resources needed to effect change. Innovative work communities are characterized by the presence of “resource slack.” (The term “resource slack” means the presence in the work community of surplus assets.) These surpluses might be in the form of flexible leadership styles or available staff time that can be directed to other than just routine work. They might also mean the availability of money or other resources to apply to developing new ideas for service delivery or other goals. Where there is this kind of surplus, the risk of trying something new is reduced. Inner leaders have learned to provide time and resources to innovation to an essential activity without depriving other programs of needed assets.
The relationship between innovation and the presence of resource slack is crucial to change and cannot be overemphasized. This situation is a different idea from resource allocation that is traditionally the case. Most often leaders strive for economical use of resources They try to eliminate waste and return unused resources. But the innovative work community needs just that sort of “duplication and surplus” to be innovative.
Inner leaders need not be personally innovative—although that characteristic can be an advantage. However, they must be able to recognize innovative people and be willing to underwrite their activity if the work community is to prosper. Ideas are of no value whatever if they are not used and capitalized upon. There are several things inner leaders can do to encourage innovation in their follower core. For example, they make an effort to find people with open, inquisitive minds and stimulate them by their attitude and material support. They encourage followers to think about and propose alternative ways to meet the program goals of the work community.
In addition, inner-level leaders expend effort to keep the work community’s communications channels open and provide as much information as possible to all followers, since determining beforehand who of the follower core is innovative is impossible. Effective inner leaders also ask questions of followers and continuously elicit their opinions and suggestions as to ways to do their job—or the job of anyone else—better. And they teach their followers how to develop their ideas and how to present them in ways that will demonstrate the idea in its most useful light. Many people are cautious about exposing their ideas openly. They fear ridicule and shy away from the potential of being found wrong, or “interfering” by their colleagues.
The leader’s work in encouraging techniques of innovation is to help followers feel free to discuss alternatives in a non-threatening forum. There are many forces in play that restrict innovation: fear, uncertainty (Carson, 2001), tradition, possessive feelings of “my turf,” and the general conservative mindset present in many work communities. Inner leaders take an active, encouraging role in soliciting and promoting follower innovation as they seek to overcome built-in inertia to change.