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Facing Our Resistance to Change

We don’t just resist changes that are big and scary, we resist change on every level.

We laugh at Einstein’s definition of insanity while pretending we don’t live by it every day, “doing what we have always done, expecting different results.” Leader face this resistance constantly. At the same time, leaders often miss the subtle ways they themselves stand in opposition to change, too.

Even leaders with a core bias to help the people or organizations they lead take new ground, are tempted to limit the changes they are willing to risk to those within the boundaries of their own comfort zone. To say it another way, it is easy to ask other people to make major change as long as that change is contained within the realm of what we already find comfortable. Even as we call for bold change in others, we have a tendency to avoid the implications of those changes in ourselves.

However, leadership is about change.

Leaders assess where things are now and where they need to be. They admit that we cannot get somewhere new by doing what we have always done. Great leaders risk going back to the drawing board to unlearn, relearn, and become students of whole new disciplines and skills. They are willing to put it all on the line for the sake of what is truly needed.

Leading is change. Leading is not about polishing the status quo. Therefore, to be leaders of change, we have to allow change to begin in us.

But here’s the deal. Change is destabilizing and risky. You cannot guarantee a return on your “investment” of change until you are all in with no way of going back. Change is an act of faith to trust your best wisdom and intentions without any guarantees. It is possible to pay the price of change and not achieve what you hope for. So, given the facts that change is risky, that people resist change, and that change leads to loss while destabilizing an organization, it is no wonder that courageous leadership is so rare.

There are lots of reasons to play it safe. However, we will never get where we need to go by staying where we are. (How’s that for a brilliant quotable quote.)

Every day every leader must decide. Am I going to be brave or safe?

A little personal inventory:

  • What is the new territory you long for with your team or organization? What do you dream of achieving?

  • What actions, decisions, or new growth have you been putting off?

  • What risks will you personally have to take if you are going to lead toward that new future?

What are you learning? What holds you back? Build the conversation by adding your comments below.

COMING UP: a series on the subject of change. Kicking off with this post, I am going to devote the next few weeks to posts specifically on change—how it works, what it takes, why its hard, how to lead your organization through it, and even how to lead change without being eaten alive by those you are trying to serve. Expect a new post every Tuesday and Friday.


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