Influencing Positive Change – Finding Courage

August 08, 2018

by Dave Zietlow, President of DPZietlow & Associates

Leadership manifests itself in many cultural environments and is heavily impacted by situational dynamics. People assuming leadership roles are equipped with many different skill-sets and experiences. They face in many cases skepticism and entrenched resistance to change. Leaders are those who despite the challenges they face work to influence positive change. Finding the courage to make that first step forward and follow through is one of the foundational milestones to success in achieving those changes!
 
There are six steps that define the needed courage to step out of the leader’s safe comfort zone and find the courage to move forward:
 
1.    Accept Responsibility
 
Part of finding the courage is to accept some personal responsibility for the challenges of influencing positive change. The leader needs to accept that he/she has been fully equipped and placed in this situation to lead. The leader is not at the mercy of the situation. Nor are they helpless against the opposition. The leader has the responsibility to work to achieve the needed change and needs to affirm that to themselves. Accepting responsibility means they need to:
  • Eliminate the ”buts” of moving forward
  • Develop a positive support network
  • Encourage the “We” and reduce the “Them” involved in placing responsibility/blame
 
2.    Embrace Non-Conformity
 
The leader needs to find a way to embrace non-conformity in order to foster and influence positive change within the organization. There is tremendous inertia in all organizations. Those organizations who embrace change continue to move forward by improving along the way through this momentum having overcome inertia until stopped by external events. Many organizations are stuck and this inertia must be overcome though embracing non-conformity! This is why it is so important to develop and pursue a vision and mission that is positive and future-oriented not backward-looking focused on seeking to maintain the status quo. Embracing non-conformity means leaders need to:
  • Seek a higher purpose and preferred future state
  • Utilize a language of growth and progress
  • Strive to not fit in rather stretch out
 
3.    Push beyond Comfort Zone
 
Leaders seeking to influence change must find the courage to push beyond their comfort zone as well as the comfort zone of the organization. As human beings, we naturally risk adverse as we seek to fit into the group and community we find ourselves. We want to find that comfort zone where we can live our lives out in peaceful existence. Leaders by definitions are those that want to move people through influence to where they do not naturally want to go. The preferred state is outside the people’s comfort zone and the leader needs to help them get there through moving out of their comfort zone also. Finding the courage to move out of the comfort zone means they need to:
  • Know who they are through a thorough self-assessment
  • Find an encourager and accountability partner
  • Benchmark the future state
 
 
4.    Ask for What You Want
 
Curiosity and the ability to ask powerful open-ended questions are essential tools of the leader who seeks to influence others to positive change. No one, not even the most talented leader has all of the answers to achieving the preferred future state. Develop a connection with the people through being curious about how things are and what the thinking is on a situation. Learn to ask open-ended questions that seek a common understanding with other people/groups. Find the courage to ask for the change you want and build support from the people who are impacted by the change:
 
·         Learn to ask open-ended and powerful questions that build understanding and agreement
·         Seek to find the common ground and influence change through curiosity
·         Develop a common language among supporters of the change to the preferred future state
 
5.    Say what you think
 
Learn to say what you believe and think even in unfriendly cultural environments. Work to ensure our thoughts are grounded in faithful belief and reflection. Work to say what you think which drives common understanding and moves the dialogue forward. Part of this process is to seek the basis for other opposed ideas so as to honor their place in the conversation. Take those different points of view into consideration when you say what you think about the change that is needed in the organization. Finding the courage to say what you think even to unhearing ears takes the development of the ability to:
 
  • Learn to listen actively to others
  • Place your thoughts in the context of the listener and cultural situation
  • Speak what you think from a non-judgmental place
 
 
6.    Fight for what you believe
 
The ability to influence others to a preferred state is worth a stand. The courage of one’s convictions is an important component of leadership. The challenge in acting on these convictions is are they for self-interest and self-promotion or are they being espoused for the common good and for the higher purpose. The consideration of the other side of the argument is an important component of standing for one’s beliefs. Growth comes from the taking on of all points of view stated in a constructive manner and rarely are dogmatic truths. So as an example if you are fighting for or standing up for a disadvantaged group continue to listen for the other approaches and arguments in the context of the greater purpose and whether is value added merit in a piece of the opposition you are fighting against with some such passion. Fighting for what you believe is an important part of finding the courage to be a leader:
 
  • Develop a core statement of belief which is living and growing all the time through learning and listening
  • Express your thoughts and beliefs freely focused on the greater purpose
  • Engage in dialogue that seeks common understanding and avoids hard barriers
 
 
Leaders by definitions are those that want to move people through influence to where they do not naturally want to go. The preferred state is outside the people’s comfort zone and the leader needs to help them get there through moving out of their comfort zone also.

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