The fifth characteristic of leadership for us to consider is Leaders are “change agents.”
They bring about change in order to fulfil their vision. They move through chaotic situations and change things; they manage change. An effective leader will not be satisfied with the traditional status quo lifestyle. To him or her, change is vital. As a result, one may label a courteous rebel but in reality, it may be those who are resistant to change who are the true rebels. Jacob Bronowski said, “We have to understand that the world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. He loves to do what he does well and, having done it well, he loves to do it better.
The leader does it better and better and better, but is never satisfied. Aeschylus said that wisdom is gained through pain and reflection, leaders learn by leading, and they learn best by leading in the face of obstacles. As weather shapes mountains, so problems make leaders. Difficult bosses, lack vision and virtue in execute suite, circumstances beyond their control, and their own mistakes have been the leaders’ basic curriculum.
Once the leader has personally changed and discerned the difference between novel changes and need change, then that leader must become a change agent. In this world of rapid change and discontinuities, the leader must be out in front to encourage change and growth and to show the way to bring it about.
The leader must first understand the two important requisites to bringing about change: knowing the technical requirements of the change, and understanding the attitude and motivational demands for bringing it about. Both requisites are critical necessary. More often than not, though, when failure to change results, it is because of inadequate or inappropriate motivation, not from lack of technical smarts.
In most cases the person who oversees the day to day running of the organisation will be more skilled in the technical requirements of change, whereas the leader will have a better understanding of the attitudinal and motivational demands that the followers need.
Note the difference: in the beginning the skills of a leader are essential. No change will ever occur if the psychological needs are unmet. Once change has begun, the skills of a technical person are needed to maintain needed change.
There is nothing more difficult to undertake, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than introducing change. Why? The leader has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and only lukewarm defenders in those who may do well with the change. Resistance to change is universal. It invades all classes and cultures. It seizes every generation by the throat and attempts to stop all forward movement toward progress. Many well-educated people, after being confronted with truth, have been unwilling to change their minds.
Often the place or point you tripped on was where the treasure lay! It stopped you long enough to do some digging and you saw something you wouldn’t have seen if you kept moving. Leaders remain focussed on the vision and purpose in spite of difficulties and hardship.
For our country to go forward, change must take precedence over the way things are done now. Leadership involves leading and inspiring people, and to do this well the leader needs to know the direction for the future so that others can decide whether or not to follow. Lawrence states that leadership without direction is meandering. Change starts with a vision of a better future for our nation. For us, a leadership vision is about the future and what we aspire for and how we might make it happen. Our leaders must be willing to take the responsibility to change.
It is no small challenge to implement change. Most people find it difficult to change and to react to the situation in a positive manner. Often our excuse for failing to practice good leadership that brings about change is that either we feel inadequate ourselves to lead in that change process or we judge others to be inadequate.
It is true that leadership responsibility is a matter that to be weighed carefully, for the leader, as a change agent, will be held in stricter and more severe judgment than his followers. However, if we analyse the great leaders of the Scriptures and the great leaders of history including some of our present day leaders, areas of inadequacy appear in each one and very often admitted by each. After all, we are all sinners before God, saved by grace alone. Who can claim among us that we have not blown it and that we should have done something differently or made a better decision?
Israel needed a leader and God had been preparing one. Moses felt very inadequate for he could not forget that he had killed a man. God forgave and changed Moses! Yet we are so unforgiving; we forgive less than God forgives! God can still train and make leaders and you and I must be willing to work with Him as He clearly shows in His Word and we must begin to meet this need. Accept the challenge of change!
Rev. Eric D. Maefonea