Change Leaders or Change Leaders?

by  Mike Henry  |  Self Leadership

Do we transform existing leaders… or get new leaders?

Can we embark on a set of activities designed to encourage people already in leadership positions to change their behavior?  Will current leaders change their ways?  Are there actions we can take to encourage those already “in charge” to act and think differently than they did during their rise to their present position?  What incentive exists for those already in authority?

Established leaders have little incentive to change their ways.  Let’s face it.  They’re already in charge.  They have a track record of success.  There is little reason for someone in a position of leadership to identify with the Undercover CEO of the week.  I’m sure some will.  But what reason do they have to change?  The answer is the same as anyone else, improve their present or future.  Therefore perceived need is the primary driver of change.  Many successful leaders have little perceived need.

What or who should we be trying to change?

I wonder if our energy isn’t better spent equipping those who will one-day become leaders.  Change involves risk.  Those motivated by present discomfort are more likely to embrace the risk.  We avoid what we fear.  If we fear the future more than the risk of change, we’ll pursue the change.  If we fear the change more than the future, we’ll continue doing what we’re doing.

However, too much is at stake to bypass existing leaders.  First of all, many are character-based.  We have to look past the power of the media to find those leaders who light their world.  Their influence is critical to changing the tide away from position or power-based leadership.  We must continue to try to change the attitudes and behavior of those in leadership positions and at the same time equip those who will attain to leadership positions in the future. We must develop character-based leadership in the next generation of leaders.

Lead Change?  Absolutely!

So we do want to change our existing leaders.  We ask existing positional leaders to wake up and decide to earn influence with character and service to the team.  Go beyond simply using the influence granted by your position.

And we want to change incoming leaders, too.  If you are a positional-leadership outsider, build your character and strengthen your ability to earn authority.  Your character and service to the team generates influence.  Use the discomfort of your present position to build your character-based leadership endurance.  You will be “in the lead” soon.  Don’t rest on positional authority.

Whether you’re “in the lead” now or you plan to be soon, do the things mentioned in Seth Godin’s Tribes.  Take the lead. Stand for something positive and include those who chose to collaborate.  In other words, stand up for what you believe in, but please believe in something worth standing for.  Live your passion and we will join you in it.

Lead Change is a group of people who want to earn their influence because of who they are.  Join us?

Photo © Christy Thompson – Fotolia.com

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About The Author

Articles By mike-henry
Chief Instigator (Founder) of Lead Change Group and VP of IT for a mid sized technology company. Passionate about character-based leadership and making a positive difference.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mark Sturgell CBC  |  10 Jun 2011  |  Reply


Nice job here. I have long been a proponent of “there are only two ways to change an organization: 1) Change the leaders or 2) Change leaders.” Thanks for joining the chorus.

Mark Sturgell
Helping people with dreams becoming leaders with vision.

Mike Henry  |  10 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Mark, as always, you put it much more elegantly and succinctly than I did. Thanks for that simple, yet profound phrase.


Beyond Horizons  |  15 Jun 2011  |  Reply

A very insightful post. And very relevant as well.
Leadership, these days, means so much more than it used to. It is not enough anymore to just be able to ‘plan and execute’ business strategies, or see that work gets done. Wise leadership, that has a strong ethical and moral base, rather than just the ability to be efficient, has become the need of the hour. Wise leaders bring about changes and improvements in the people that work with and for them. As they move forward and grow, they take their people with them.It is only fair to ask the current leaders to incorporate these changes.

– Sindoora (http://beyondhorizons.in)

Mike Henry  |  15 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Thanks for the comment. I agree it’s fair and desirable that current leaders would recognize and adapt some of the changes that are happening. But it’s hard for people who aren’t experiencing any “pain” to actually change their behavior. Generally when we’re comfortable is when we’re least likely to do anything differently. Here’s to hoping. Mike…

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