Getting at real transformation: advice for aspiring change leaders

I recently asked a group of smart, experienced people what advice they would give others about managing change in an organizational context. The first response (after a short period of silence): “It takes time, and grit.” While subsequent suggestions may have been a bit more specific, the honesty and accuracy of that first response stole the show. It does take time, and leading change—particularly large-scale change—is not for the faint of heart.

How do you describe a change leader?

Emotional intelligence certainly helps. Change leaders must recognize, acknowledge and address both personal and organizational feelings of loss, uncertainty about the future and fear of the unknown. They must be willing to invest time, energy and resources in helping the organization move through the process and in managing resistance along the way. Change leaders must engage other change leaders, continuously building and supporting a team of individuals to champion and guide the change process. And they must emphasize communication. Great change leaders are optimistic and consistent in delivering a message of moving forward. They communicate regularly, talking with people face-to-face a