Updated: Jan 8, 2022
3 Ways to Become the Change Leader You Want to Be
Change is all around us, perhaps now more than ever:
work venues - from home back to office
sending kids off to college or back to school
delayed vacation plans
age and ability
Most of us are probably enduring at least one of these changes right now. For my family and me, we are trying to survive several this August as we prepare to sell our house, move to a new city, move one of our kids out of the house, and another off to college!
I can definitely relate to the stress many are under to manage these situations.
Are introverts well-suited for these kinds of changes?
Introverts must take note of our introspective nature which can lead us to overanalyze and fret about upcoming situations and the unknown. This is a slippery slope, but I do think many introverts also have several valuable skills that help weather periods of change and uncertainty:
Observant: to analyze situations to understand what is actually happening so we can move from an emotional state to more of a rationale, task-related state
Preparation: to put a plan in place to navigate the change
Resilience: to remain flexible and adapt to changes in our plans
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In my upcoming book, The Corporate Introvert: How to Lead and Thrive with Confidence, I talk about 4 different ways to approach change. These can apply to your home life just as much as work situations. What kind of change agent are you?
Types of Change Agents
Let’s consider four extremely different approaches to change. We may fall into any one of these categories at times based on the situation, sense of urgency, or our emotional state. Understanding your natural inclinations will enable you to reflect and become the change leader every family and work team needs.
1. Change Resistant: These are people who thoroughly dislike change. We may all be creatures of habit but change resistors may feel their whole world and all their plans are falling apart. They don’t challenge impending change with thoughtful considerations. They fight change and may undermine necessary transformation, even from those in authority. Emotions often fuel this resistance. Change resistors may feel personally threatened by the change and spiteful toward the originator. In either case, there is no good role for change resistors in the family or workplace as their negativity drains others and makes them ill-prepared for inevitable uncertainties.
2. Change Tolerant: People in this group aren’t big fans of change either, although they often tolerate change because it comes from a position of authority. Thus, they don’t undermine change, but they rarely initiate alternatives because it doesn’t appear to be in their wheelhouse or seems too risky. Team members and leaders eventually identify the tolerators and become frustrated with their lack of positive contributions.
3. Change Enthusiast: Being an enthusiast sounds positive, but often comes from an emotional origin. Many people are enamored by the idea of change. They love to change focus, team structure, approaches—nearly anything is fair game. Some are idea people—they generate and/or pick up on new concepts with zeal. However, change enthusiasts often implement those ideas without thoughtful consideration or discussion. They may advocate and initiate changes because it gives them power over people and activities. I once worked for a manager who burst out of his office every couple of weeks tauting his next great strategic approach and enlisting his team to drop everything and pursue this new path with vigor. But a couple of weeks later he would insist the team scrap that last "great idea" and refocus on a new, "even better idea." Enthusiasts may not realize that flippant change confuses and eventually exhausts others, dampens the value of prudent change, and eventually erodes the power they are seeking to create.
4. Change Leader: Change leaders use their strengths and positive mindset to seek, create, and support valued change. They evaluate ideas, solicit input from stakeholders, and exert patience before implementing changes. Change leaders consider how to calm the enthusiasts while bringing the tolerators on board. They build credibility through a thoughtful and purposeful process. They form a coalition to implement valued change and shelve ideas that don't appear to be worthwhile, at least at that moment in time.
Sometimes you will need to adapt to outside changes while other times you should be advocating changes. In either case, the change leader will exercise the best approach for positive, applicable change.
Which type of change agent are you?
How to Become the Change Leader
Regardless of which role you find yourself playing most often today, you too can become a change leader:
Shift Your Mindset: People are creatures of habit and introverts in particular love to develop and implement plans. But change is often thrust upon us or we see issues or opportunities that cannot be neglected. Change may be frustrating in the near term, but change has brought us new products and services, new technologies, greater efficiencies, and overall joy. You may not jump up and down when changes are imminent, but recognizing the long-term values can help shift you from a resistor or tolerator to a change leader.
Find Change: Leaders will seek out change. Introverts can be dialed into this mission. Observe, listen, contemplate. Break down problems to find solutions. Consider differences between how your team and others appear to be going about business and consider the chance to share learnings and concepts. Allow yourself to daydream at your desk, on long walks, with a fellow change leader.
Implement Good Change: When you find those change opportunities, run them through the tests above to ensure they are valuable changes, not just impetuous changes from an enthusiast. Seek input from others, most especially those who will be most affected in implementing the change itself. Be a bit patient - sleep on the ideas and address nagging concerns. Overcommunicate your rationale for change. Listen for issues, but be a supporter. The team will look to you during the hardest period of implementation. Since this has been deemed to be a valuable change, support it with vigor and gusto and help your team navigate inevitable obstacles.
Following these steps will help you become the change leader everyone looks to in times of uncertainty and, perhaps more importantly, will help you to be calm in the face of any of the changes mentioned at the top...or perhaps all at one time.