Be a leader, not a friend, when implementing change

While reading Bill Fischer’s editorial this morning, I thought how awful it must be to act as a leader during times of change. All the qualities of a change leader are unpleasant: immodest, impolite and unreasonable. Who would like that person?

But it brings up an interesting question: did you get into business to be liked? If your answer is yes, that is great! But you may find difficulty if you have any major change projects you want to push forward. As Fischer states, “Often it is not so much that the planning for change is incorrect, as it is that the impetus for change is slowed, either by forces that resist change or are indifferent to an initiative, or by an insufficient motive force inside the leadership team to push the initiative forward in the face of hesitation.”

Don’t compromise on the dreams for your business. No one will advocate for the change and progression of your business better than you will, and you need to be ready to fight for it. And in a time when the marine industry has high expectations for growth, you will very likely be trying new things and exploring creative ways to navigate the new marketplace.

That means making difficult decisions, pushing employees to or past their full potential and likely upsetting a number of people. If you work in a leadership team, it means a willingness to challenge others’ ideas with skepticism and useful criticism, as well as asserting your best ideas. The impulse is to want to be liked, but in times of change it will keep you from moving from an idea to an implementation, especially if met with resistance.

This isn’t to say you should be abusive or indifferent towards your employees or peers. Far from it. But you need to be strong in your position and let them dislike you so you can “get it done.” There are times where it’s important to be a friend to your employees and those you work with – leading a change project is not one of them.

It’s not easy to move change forward and upset staff. What experiences do you have implementing a change and facing resistance? How did you respond?

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