Leading Down the Path of Greatest Resistance

A culture of high performance depends on commitment at the highest levels of the organization—not only to set it in motion but also to maintain the momentum that ensures ongoing high performance (Thomas, Harburg, & Dutra, 2007).  Change is not a concept in its infancy nor is change an easy process, yet as the c-suite continues to rely on those reporting to them to execute change within an organization, the potential result is an unmanned and underperforming change effort.  To set the stage for fluid change in an organization, one can begin with an exploration into the concept of leadership as it applies to this effort in particular.  Perhaps not because leadership is all that makes a change effort successful, yet rather because a lack of leadership can be all that is needed to make a change effort a failure.

Transcending our own egos, entering uncertainty, being open and seeking increased awareness, challenging our own hypocrisy, being purpose-centered – it all sounds very intense and difficult to sustain (Quinn, 2004).  Leading change at the individual level can often be confused with simply taking tenacious action.  Yet, as Quinn describes, it is far more about undergoing a transformational effort within the self regarding perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and patterns of behavior.  Rather than looking at the organization juxtaposed to personal life, perhaps a more efficacious approach is to view the organization in conjunction with personal life.  This done not because it is acceptable to bring personal  turmoil to the workplace, rather because it is sought that every leader who has the opportunity to succeed in a change effort brings the life lessons, attitudes, and beliefs of self to the organization instead.  Once congruence is reached between the personal and professional lives of a leader than true action can begin.  And once a leader is congruent, focus, perseverance, and a true sense of leadership can emerge.

The energy and moral power of people in the fundamental state of leadership tends to be contagious (Quinn, 2004).  This excerpt pertains to the concept of Emergent Leadership.  Emergent Leadership is much less about the hierarchical means of process integration as prescribed by industry for prior decades, and is instead regarding the leadership role each individual on a team takes when relative strengths can become both apparent and utilized in a change effort.  Teams in organizations have a tendency to gravitate toward structure, isolating leadership within a team, and assigning accountability based on either title, pay grade, or political standing.  Emergent Leadership conversely discusses an individual becoming the team leader only insomuch as they create the opportunity for each team member to feel free to lead each aspect of a change effort where individual talents can emerge.  As such, to lead a team thereby becomes much less about exacting orders, and much more about bringing to light the individual talents of each member of the team, while simultaneously empowering them to use those talents. Organizations need to change constantly, for all kinds of reasons, but achieving a true step change in performance is rare (Meaney & Pung, 2008).  Ever-Increasing Integrity is a term used to envelope all concepts surrounding revitalized, transformational leadership via the methods as described.  Quinn posits that with ever-increasing integrity; organizations have the ability to empower individuals at all levels to contribute to the leadership of the change effort in such a way that a more contagious, shared-values approach is seen throughout the transformation.  It is with Ever-Increasing Integrity, in combination with Emergent Leadership & personal congruence, that leaders of all levels have the opportunity to contribute toward a successful transformation effort.  Rather than finding themselves responsible for forcing the change onto the organization, they are no longer leading down the path of greatest resistance.

– Justin

Hrebiniak, L.G. (2005). Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing

Meaney, M. & Pung, C. (2008). Creating Organizational Transformations. New York, NY: McKinsey & Company

Thomas, R.J., Harburg, F., & Dutra, A. (2007). How to Create a Culture of High Performance. New York, NY: Accenture.


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