Facing the tumult of our times, many organizations are undergoing drastic changes. The smart ones are seeking to attract the best talent so they can compete creatively through great ideas. They are mastering the advance of technologies so they can seize every new opportunity with speed and efficiency. No matter how local their work may be, they are preparing for clients or members or vendors who are global. Indeed, it’s a whole new world. Constant change affects everyone, and everyone must master the ability to change constantly in order to survive.
Many people find any change uncomfortable and today’s changes daunting. Yet, it’s important to remember that our nation and world are filled with leaders who are very able. They are already leading organizations to unimagined achievement in this rapidly evolving environment. You can be one of those leaders.
My career has been devoted to helping leaders shepherd organizations through radical change—toward outstanding successes. It doesn’t matter whether my client works at a commercial enterprise, or a government agency, or a not-for-profit organization, or a community association. The need for transformation transcends industry and geography. The goal is universal: to tap and deploy all resources for maximum outcome with minimal risk. To achieve this end, even people who dislike change will seek change.
Achieving Sustainable Change
The only kind of change that resource-strapped organizations can afford to invest in is change that creates sustainable results. Quick fixes are just too expensive, especially when you consider how their impact usually fizzles out. The best change becomes effortless. It is self-sustaining. How? Change becomes daily fare. The organization creates a culture of continuous transformation.
That sounds simple enough, but finding a way to make an entire organization gear every thought, word and deed toward this end has met with more failure than success. What is the single determining factor between failure and success? What is the secret to successful change? It is leadership. In other words, the needed difference right now could be you.
Don’t dismiss this idea. I have studied and interviewed leaders for decades, and I am convinced that everyone has a leader inside. You may excuse yourself because you have no authority over others. I remind you that, in today’s economy with its increasing need for specialized knowledge and experience, you will be called upon to lead others informally from time to time. Maybe you have already been promoted to an officially sanctioned level of authority, but are you tapping into all the best everyone around you has to offer? Another way of looking at it is that, today, there are no followers. It is time to cultivate your ability to lead.
Leading By Example
I am not talking about management but about leadership. And, I am talking about leadership up close and personal. If you expect a team of talented professionals to master true expertise and be vigilant about contributing great ideas, you need to exemplify what you expect. The need to lead by example applies to everyone in the work group, not just the manager. If you expect people to contribute to a shared goal freely, you must master your own unifying abilities. Indeed, if you expect the organization to tap its full potential as you lead it forward, you must tap your own first.
Simply put, the starting point of change is you. You must master your own ability to do great things and to have meaningful, measurable success before you can embody authentically what others need to see in order to respond in kind.
This is why my work with some of the nation’s most visionary leaders focuses on personal mastery. I have written a book, Leaders in Motion: How to Win the Race for Organizational Health, Wealth and Creative Power, to take you through steps of personal reflection that can change whatever organization you are in. Consider just a few insights in this process of personal mastery, and you’ll see its good sense.
Assessing Your Self
As a first step, you must dive deep into your “self.” Take a personal inventory of how clear your intentions are, how well your commitments guide your actions, and whether you fuel or sap energies. Who are you really as a leader? Only then can you admit honestly your own unique abilities and weaknesses when you try to create lasting impact in your life and organization.
The more you learn about yourself, the more you can challenge yourself to brave new leaps forward. While there is naturally some trepidation before any leap of faith, there is freedom on the other side that permits you to achieve things you could not have imagined before your brave steps forward. Isn’t this the same courage you ask of people around you as you seek better levels of performance and achievement?
Learning From Mistakes
Of course, continuous transformation involves surrendering to the cycle of learning. Learning requires mistakes and can even be embarrassing (if you choose to be embarrassed). Your ability to welcome mistakes and create lessons out of failure must be stretched to new levels. In this regard, high-achieving leaders often stumble. And, when a leader stumbles, so does everyone around her. Mastering new ways of thinking about constant learning is crucial before you can set an organization free of its hesitation to try and fail on its way to great success.
You must learn new ways of thinking about failure and mistakes, about fear and anxiety. As you learn, you will evolve to new levels of consciousness, vigilance, and patience. You will begin to inspire similar evolution around you. Stress is recast as energy. Failure and mistakes become valuable. Your relationship to fear is altered. You, and those around you, are less and less distracted by negative thinking and are unleashed to learn your way to achievement. You are transforming and flourishing.
Again and again, I have watched as the results are measurable, sustainable, exceptional and altogether inspiring to everyone involved—all because a leader looked inward before driving forward.
Today’s challenges are surmountable when good leaders are part of the formula. So, I’ll repeat myself. Everyone is a leader. The only way to lead is to first master your self. Imagine a day when your leadership needs no followers. Every thought, word and deed associated with you can be about giving others permission to excel and to lead whenever the need arises. At that point, you and your organization will be winning the race for organizational health, wealth and creative power.
About the Author
Marta C. Wilson is the founder and CEO of Transformation Systems, Inc., a Virginia-based company specializing in management systems engineering, executive strategy and organizational transformation. Her latest book is Leaders in Motion: Winning the Race for Organizational Health, Wealth and Creative Power.