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Every Leader Must Be A Change Agent Or

Face Extinction

Glenn Llopis Contributor i

Mar 24, 2014, 10:17am
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 every leader must be a change agent

 Without strategy, change is merely substitution not evolution.

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In a workplace infused with top down, hierarchical, departmental silos, change management is
the new requirement for leadership success. With a market comprised of fickle consumers and
workplaces brimming with employee identity crises, leadership success requires more patience,
poise, and time-to-think – and the ability to seamlessly connect the dots of opportunity. The
marketplace requirements to compete are evolving so quickly that leadership is struggling to stay
ahead of the course; unsuccessful efforts to be proactive and sustain organizational readiness will
come at an extremely high cost. As such, the demand for leadership that is willing and capable of
tackling change management head-on – already in short supply – is at a premium.

Change management is no longer a term that denotes only operational improvements, cost
efficiencies and process reengineering. Change management has become a much bigger, more
interwoven part of the overall business fabric – an embedded leadership requirement that plays
into everything that we do, every day, and how we go about getting things done, regardless of
hierarchy or rank. In the end, every leader must be a change agent .
For many leaders, their primary roles and responsibilities have rapidly evolved. For example,
when was the last time you reviewed your job description? Isn’t it fair to say that it has or soon
will become outdated – that your company is changing so fast it needs a refresh? How about
your job title? Does it really describe what you are accountable for? In fact, the requirements to
be a successful leader have forced many to reinvent themselves in order to reclaim their
relevancy. As a Fortune 250 executive recently told me, “If I don’t reinvent myself quickly, I
won’t be around much longer.”

Without strategy, change is merely substitution not evolution.

If you don’t know where you want your business to go, how you want your employees and
customers to grow, and what your plan is to get there – your intentions don’t really
matter. Unfortunately, many leaders don’t take the time to define their strategy for change, as
this represents the basis for ultimate accountability and action. If leaders don’t feel comfortable
with renewal and reinvention, they will begin to lose their impact and influence quickly.

Change is the new normal for leadership success and all leaders must accept this fact.

Leadership in the 21st century not only requires the ability to continuously manage crisis and
change – but also the circular vision to see around, beneath and beyond the obvious in order to
anticipate the unexpected before circumstances force your hand. As you embark upon your
change management journey, here are ten things that will challenge your capabilities as a change
agent and potentially become defining moments along your leadership success path.

1. Multigenerational Influence

Leaders can no longer be comfortable just gravitating to the generation they belong
to. Connecting the dots of talent, unique perspectives and experiences requires all leaders to
change their attitude, approach and style to accommodate the needs and seize the opportunities
that lie within a broader multigenerational reach.

Don’t get stuck within the confines of the generation that you are most familiar with. Get out of
your comfort zone and learn how to multiply the opportunities for growth and innovation; invest
time to understand the insights in the broader field of talent and customers that lie around and in
front of you.

I took this leap of faith 10 years ago when I started a new technology venture with a partner who
was 15 years younger than me. We agreed that our partnership would be more successful if we
mentored each other. I would teach him about business/leadership and he would teach me about
technology and digital platforms. Not only did we develop a successful business model, but we
both strengthened our core competencies because we accepted and learned from our generational

Learn about the 5 Ways Young Professionals Want to Be Led.

2. Cultural Intelligence

The opportunities embedded in the rapid demographic shift are endless, yet the lack of cultural
intelligence is making it difficult for leaders to understand the new business models and best
practice requirements that lie right within reach. Success in today’s global market requires a
leader’s ability to see the talent and consumer landscape as two sides of the same coin; they are
interdependent variables that must work in lockstep for your workforce and business to flourish.

The 21st century leader must be more culturally intelligent about others (as well as themselves) in
order to finally realize the value of the demographic shift. Culture is the new currency for
growth and leaders must change their perspectives about diversity from being a cost center
(focused on the representation of women and minority groups) to a profit center (innovative new
products, services and solutions). The marketplace is teaching us all that talent acquisition and
consumer engagement are about seeing through the lens of a mosaic that gives us greater strategic
focus, not of a melting pot that gets lost in translation.

Eric Llopis, Senior Vice President at Aramark, sums it up this way: “In a world of mature
categories and consumers with near-immediate access to information and substitutes, growth
requires hyper-market segmentation and the ability to have deep and rich conversations with
target consumers. Cultural intelligence is a critical variable to create value propositions that
deliver solutions on their terms.”

Learn about America's Demographic Shift And 7 Ways Leaders Can Leverage It.

3. Global Market Wisdom

The manner in which business is conducted outside of the United States is much different, yet
many of today’s workplace leaders are not privy to the wisdom required to conduct business
globally. Business outside of the United States respects wisdom equally to knowledge, as well as
proper conduct, tact and executive presence. Conducting business abroad is about the total
experience a leader can bring to the table that is consistent, original and true. Self-promotion,
lack of values and sensationalism will get you nowhere.

It’s not about recognition, but about respect. Relationships are earned, not purchased. While
your organization’s brand reputation carries weight, just as important is getting to know who you
are as an individual, what you stand for, your leadership influence, and the intangibles that help
you earn trust.

In many respects, the term “leadership” has become a commoditized term in the United States,
while globally it holds more value, meaning, and purpose.

Learn about the 5 Ways Leaders Earn Respect From Their Employees.

4. Consumers Demand Much More

As leaders, you must touch the business just as much as you lead it. Leaders can never forget
about the customers that contribute to the growth of their business and must never grow
complacent about understanding their changing needs and demands.

Today’s consumer is much more fickle; they are drowning in the noise and clouded by the
choices that are in front of them -- that are attempting to sway them and influence what
they buy. As such, consumers have become much more demanding and it’s more difficult to
earn their loyalty and trust.

Leaders, regardless of hierarchy or rank, are affected by consumer behavior; therefore, they must
change the lens that they see through in order to be more mindful and educate themselves (and
their teams) about consumer demands – which are what ultimately change the course of action
taken. In many respects, leaders must become general managers of their business, knowing
enough about how each part of the business impacts them directly and indirectly so they can be
more proactive in their thinking, planning and execution.

Learn about the 6 Brand Strategies That Most CMOs Fail to Execute.
5. Women Leaders Are Ready to Dive In

More women will assume senior executive leadership roles in the next 10 years, and if you are a
male leader, be open to the new opportunities this represents. Women are ready to command
the leadership space by diving in, not just leaning in -- to solidify their influence in the business

Women see through a different lens then men and thus interpret the requirements of leadership
differently. Fortunately for women leaders, their most undervalued natural leadership traits are
now in high-demand.

Leaders must carefully assess their approach and style and challenge themselves to think
differently about how to best align their leadership attributes to the needs of the business and the
marketplace as a whole.

Learn about the 5 Ways To Refresh Your Leadership Style.

6. Entrepreneurial Attitude

The fiercely competitive marketplace has made it mandatory for leaders to be more
entrepreneurial, connect the dots of opportunity and find non-traditional ways for their business
to grow and prosper. Beyond creativity with the existing business at-hand, leaders must be
prepared to get involved in new ventures that may require them to open up new markets, launch
new products, and/or be involved in merger and acquisition activities.

Clayton Corwin, Founder and President of StoneCreek Company, an investment and real estate
development company, "In today's world of specialization, successful leaders need to get out of
their industry lane and see what is going on in other sectors that has application to their
worlds. This sort of cross-training creates valuable insights to otherwise missed opportunities for
innovation and growth."

Because the market is changing so quickly, the entrepreneurial attitude is in high-demand and has
become the new unwritten requirement in a leader’s job description.

Learn about how The Entrepreneurial Spirit is About Connecting the Dots that Don't Yet Exist.

7. Technology

You may not be technologically savvy, but you must get to know the role that technology plays in
the evolution of your business – beyond IT, social media, websites, apps, etc. Don’t simply
depend on your Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to lead the way. As a leader in your business,
change your mindset and educate yourself and those around you. If you plan on being in a
leadership role for the rest of your career, the 21st century demands that you be knowledgeable
enough about technology to test it, engage with it and use it to harness the profitable evolution of
your business.

When was the last time you asked about the role that technology plays in your business? If it’s
been a while, start to inquire and you will be amazed at how dependent your business is or soon
will be on technology.

As Rich Melcombe, President & CEO of Richmel Media & Productions, advises, “Desperately
clinging to the status quo is a recipe for failure. Technology is here, and it can change, improve
or evolve with the blink of an eye. Embrace it or accept the consequences. Your business will
not be as competitive without it.”

Learn about the impact of technology on business.

8. Crisis Management

More and more businesses are dealing with crisis management issues because their leaders didn’t
have the circular vision to anticipate the unexpected. Don’t let your corporate challenges become
headline news.

Leaders must be more prepared to handle any crisis with nimble agility and elegant
transparency. The advent of social media – and a national media hungry to sensationalize any
misstep – requires more leaders to have the necessary preparation, resources, and technologies to
respond to a potential crisis in a timely and responsible fashion whenever needed.

Leaders must learn how to speak to the media and use those same skills when talking to their
employees about any crisis situation. Do you know what to say (or not to say), how to deliver a
message and how to go about taking action when crisis strikes in your business? Most leaders
don’t and thus lose valuable time, putting their companies at risk. Remember, not every
company has advanced protocols and a large corporate communications team to rely on – thus
putting the onus on their leaders.

Rich Melcombe adds: “People and companies have to be authentic. Anything that smells of
being disingenuous devalues credibility. It’s really quite simple: be forthcoming. In a connected
world, if you are not telling the truth, someone else will spin their version of it for you.”

9. Thought Leadership

Today’s leaders must be bold, articulate and courageous visionaries that are not afraid to speak-
up and change the conversation and/or introduce new ideas and ideals. Being a constructively
disruptive leader is important and if you are not pushing your organization, its employees and the
industry at large to think differently, you will not only grow complacent – you will forget how to
think like a leader and as a consequence your organization will become more vulnerable to its

Clayton Corwin adds: "Complacency is the silent killer that comes with success. If you don't
wake up every morning hungry and thinking how you are going to compete and win, you are
already in trouble -- because that is exactly what your industry challengers are doing."

Thought leadership is about thinking differently and not being afraid to express those differences
to keep people honest – to enable fresh-thinking and thought-provoking dialogue that challenges
people to perform better and more creatively. Unfortunately, most leaders use the thinking and
ideas of others, rather than challenging themselves to create an original leadership
identity/personal brand that has sustainable impact and influence. In fact, leaders that lack the
expression of original thought will soon find themselves losing their competitive edge, power,
and decision-making authority – and the doors their job title once opened for them will begin to

Learn about the 10 Steps to Successful Thought Leadership to Elevate Your Career and Your
10. Evolution of the Business Model

The examples of points 1 – 9 describe a business environment that is changing rapidly and that
requires its leaders to change just as rapidly to keep up. The result of these changes is the
natural evolution of a company’s business model that now demands that its leaders serve as
change agents to lift and lead the entire company.

As change agents, you must know how to sell change and this requires a set of skills that you may
not have been originally asked to have when you first got the job. As such, you must now learn
how to be a change agent and assume the responsibilities that go with it.

Learn about the 5 Most Effective Ways to Sell Change.