Paradox of various leadership traits during change

Last week was a whirlwind week on the world markets, with almost every major financial market getting hit with major losses.  Many businesses will need to undergo some change.  According to this article from Harvard Business, leaders need to possess many traits that seem to be paradoxical in nature, yet, are necessary to bring about change.

1) Catalyze change and cope with transition – During times of change, leaders need to generate trust among workers in order for them to buy-in as well as follow-through for these new ideas. Leaders need to recognize and understand the emotional and personal needs of employees during times of transitions. 

2) Show sense of urgency and demonstrate patience – Being able to maintain the momentum and motivation is key during times of change.  At the same time, different people have different needs and coping mechanisms when confronting change.  Leaders need to be cognizant of this.  Here is a quote from the article:

To strike the right balance, leaders should make a conscious effort to provide extra support and guidance when appropriate. To do this, they must recognize that people adapt to change in different ways. Some may require additional training or time to meet new expectations. Others may need a forum to air their gripes, concerns, and fears. Extra support during change also means giving consistent, honest feedback. People need to know whether they are doing well and what they can do differently.

3) Be tough and be empathetic – Leaders should be committed, decisive and tough while tackling difficult decisions that affect the organization.  At the same time, they need to be sensitive to the consequences of their decisions to ensure it does not corrode morale and motivation.  They need to be able to stand up for their ideas and decisions while being able to understand other people’s viewpoints without preconceived notions.

4) Show optimism and be realistic and open – During times of change, people look for leaders for positive leadership.  While inspiring people and creating optimism, leaders also cannot be mired in an impossible utopia-like environment.  They need to be realistic and understand the situations that exist. They speak the truth and not sugarcoat the facts, and also admit mistakes.  This builds trust among co-workers and subordinates.

5) Be self-reliant and trust others – Being able to be self-sufficient in solving problems is very important, as well as being resourceful to be able to tackle new arising challenges.  As problems become increasingly complex, it becomes imperative to be able to trust others and embrace their different perspectives and capabilities.

6) Capitalize on strengths and go against the grain – During times of change, drawing from one’s own strengths and experiences will help provide the guidance needed.  At the same time, one needs to be open and adapt to conditions by changing behaviors and continuous learning.  By using a 360 feedback among co-workers, managers, and subordinates, it will improve their self-awareness and prevent tunnel vision. 

In an earlier post, I had written about traits of creative people which were also paradoxical in nature. In the end, for people to be effective, rigidity is the bane of success.  People must be flexible and be able to possess and act on  two seemingly opposite traits.

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One response to “Paradox of various leadership traits during change

  1. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing this. I thought you might also be interested to read this article on Forbes.com about Change and Competence and how one key to smart leadership is often “about living with or managing contradiction”! Pete Pande, President of Pivotal Resources and author of The Six Sigma Leader book call it the “tolerance for ambiguity”…here is the link to the article – enjoy!: http://www.forbes.com/leadership/2007/06/08/sigma-change-pande-lead-manage-cx_sm_0608sigma.html

    Laura Garnier

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