Four Universal Truths About Leading Change

Published June 2, 2020

Adapting. Pivoting. Being flexible.

Call it whatever you want, but right now change is the thing that literally none of us have been able to avoid.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has swept across America and the world, we have all been forced on one level or another to change. And it has impacted each of us in very profound, yet different ways.

Restaurants are changing the way they provide dinner to their customers. Movie producers have changed the way they release their movies to the public. Pastors have changed the way they care for their congregations. Production lines have changed what their producing. And the list goes on and on.

When things are changing, those we lead need to understand what’s driving the change and why it’s necessary.

As a leader, I would love to say that this time is no different. That I’ve led change dozens, if not hundreds of times before, and this is just another change that I will lead and manage and find success through. But this change has been different. This change has been exhausting. I have regularly commented that I feel like I’m trying to learn a new job and my days are far busier than they’ve ever been. Maybe you can relate.

While navigating this pandemic, there are some truths we can pull out that are universal when leading change–and these truths are magnified when there is chaos or uncertainty.

1. Change requires leaders to speak with clarity.

When things are changing, those we lead need to understand what’s driving the change and why it’s necessary. Even when things are uncertain, a leader needs to speak with clarity. Clarity leads to confidence. One last thing to note here, clarity does not equal having all the answers. A leader can still be clear and give their people confidence without having all the answers.

 

2. Change requires leaders to feel the pain of their people.

Regularly, change brings pain to those we lead. It may be learning a new way of doing something we’ve done for years. Or, it could be thinking about something or someone in ways we never have before. It can also be the simple fact that they do not agree with the change we’re leading. Leaders should be able to feel that pain. Empathy is a core skill of leadership. Without it, even the best leaders will lack influence. But with it, leaders will be more relatable, and their leadership will be more effective.

 

3. Change requires leaders to filter the criticism.

Notice I didn’t say “ignore” the criticism. As much as I would like to just ignore the criticism that comes my way, an effective leader understands that not all criticism is bad or unfounded. Even when it’s not delivered well, criticism can contain areas of growth. We must be humble enough to be criticized while being tough enough to let go of those who are just being critical.

 

4. Change requires leaders to go first.

There are very few changes an organization faces that does not have an impact on leadership. Change usually happens from the top down. This means that leaders who are leading change are being required to change themselves. Change become especially hard for a leader when it wasn’t their choice. As leaders it’s important that we go first–that we change first. Our people will be able to sense change that we have not adopted for ourselves.

 

We must be humble enough to be criticized while being tough enough to let go of those who are just being critical.

No matter your level of leadership, the industry you find yourself or the economic or social conditions, change is inevitable. Leaders make or break change management which in turn makes or breaks an organization.

When we lead change well, we will find greater team cohesiveness, a stronger foundation for future change and a deeper sense of missional effectiveness.

About the Author
Tim Parsons serves as lead pastor at The Journey Church outside Indianapolis, a host site for the GLS. His passion is to help people lead better—at work and at home.

Tim Parsons

Lead Pastor

The Journey Church (Indianapolis, IN)

Tim Parsons serves as lead pastor at The Journey Church outside Indianapolis. With a passion to help people lead better at work and at home, his church has been a longtime partner with us as a Premier Host for The Global Leadership Summit. He is the co-author of the new devotional for men, Equipping the Warrior and author of the soon to be released 40-day devotional on spiritual health, The Journey. You can  connect with Tim at timparsons.me.

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