One of my goals this year is to make a difference. I set this intent at the end of last year, because I wanted my work to have a purpose. Leading change means leading self first – to have a sense of why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Over the years I’ve participated and delivered many workshops on leadership. In 2000 I attended an Executive Development programme that included time at some of the top business schools – Stanford, MIT Sloan School of Management and Insead. I’ve lost count of the number of books, articles and journals I’ve read on the subject.
One thing that eluded me over the years was a definition that felt right. When we talk about leading change, we’re talking about the role of all leaders. So what is leadership?
In my recent research, I’ve come across a Norwegian academic and speaker, Rune Todnem By, who is one of the top-cited academics on the topic of change. He defines leadership as:
“The shared pursuit of delivering on purpose.”
So now I’ve found the answer I’ve been seeking – his definition gives direction for leadership and underpins the activity of leading, versus the title. In his definition, anyone can be a leader. The difference between a follower and a leader is the act of taking responsibility.
In his TEDxStavanagar talk he goes on to explain MAD – Make A Difference. And this is where the confluence of responsibility and purpose come together. Leading change is about making a difference in a way which has meaning and requires personal action.
If you want a more academic exploration of the topic then his co-authored article on Reimagining organisational change leadership explores two key exponents – Kurt Lewin and James MacGregor Burns. In simple terms, the true nature of leading change focuses on more than just immediate gains for leaders and their organisations. Instead, the focus should be on ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’.
Leading change with this in mind can be both confronting and liberating – a new way of looking at change which opens up possibility and different thinking about current challenges.
How might this open up your thinking about leading change?