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Specifics Leadership Challenges While Managing Change and Transitions Published: Sunday, June 24, 2007 By: Dr. Manuel Ńngel Morales

The profound theory of coaching is that if you want to lead people in any direction you need to meet them where they are.  It is easier saying it than doing it, plus acknowledging that leaders grow and that this growth is essential to achieving higher levels of success, moreover in times of transition.

In an era of turmoil and complexity it is necessary to develop readiness and capacity for self awareness and sensitivity to others; active listening and willingness to be empathic to the position of others; insight and courage to insert yourself as a leader between the demands of constant change, and the time, effort and emotional energy required to make that change plausible enough to make a concrete difference.

Leaders have to become knowledgeable about human dynamics of learning, stress and transition processes. Change, transformation and transition ventures are much more than simple technical exercises.  If requires serious ability to connect with your own emotions and those of others while experiencing transition and learning from those experiences. 

As researched (Bunker and Webb), the specific elements of transition leadership are: AUTHENTICITY, RESILIENCE, ACCEPTANCE TO CHANGE, INFLUENCING WITH VULNERABILITY, EMOTIONAL LEARNING, ACTIVE LISTENING, EMPATHY SKILLS and BALANCE. 

Managing well these elements enhance the capacity of leaders to meet people where they are and lead them through the complex processes of transition.

Authentic leaders pay careful attention to their inner selves, being attuned with their emotions, expectations, struggles, motivations, preferences, frustrations and even contradictions that they may hold.  The key ingredients for authenticity are: genuineness, communication of respect, sincere empathy, and capacity for self-disclosure.

Leadership with authenticity is essentially about creating and maintaining trust, and because constant change has taken such prominence, is critical that leaders learn to be resilient, to be able to cope and bounce back from adversity.  The critical factors of resiliency in hardship situations are: making meaning, improvisation, relationship and facing down reality.

Resistance to change causes people to get stuck in transition.  Change is the situation that is new or different and transition is the psychological and emotional adaptation to change.  Mental models are mayor roadblocks to accepting change because they are deeply rooted in habitual expectations and beliefs.  They become operating assumptions that arenít question often.  So leaders challenge their own mental models and those of their peers that underline their resistance to change.

Leadership is also about influencing with vulnerability, recognizing that people want their leaders to be human enough (and vulnerable enough) that they can relate to the feelings of others.  It is easier to commit to change when you know that the leader has walked through the difficult road of change and transformation.  Vulnerability is about having the courage to share inner concerns.  Is doesnít undermine confidence or competence, but it multiplies the positive impact and opens the door to the emergence of trust and commitment.  These days, people donít want to be led by a person that thinks that he/her is invulnerable. Change and transition are emotionally charged diligences because they bring together coping with stress, responding to uncertainty, and the challenge of engaging on powerful learning experiences.  Significant learning triggers powerful emotional reactions, both positive and negative.  Healthy leaders examine their patterns of behavior and their emotions tied to change in order to make adequate modifications. 

One of the important aspects of learning for strengthening leadership performance is the ability to step outside oneself and recognize that each individual in the organization is experiencing the change in the context of his or her own life situation and history of learning.

As one person told me the other day, life outside the comfort zone is the norm for those going through change and transition.  Thus, everyday, the challenge is for creating a balance between different realities:  1) Catalyzing change; 2) Coping with transition; 3) Sense of urgency; 4) Realistic patience; 5) Being assertive; 6) Being empathic; 7) Optimism; 8) Openness; 9) Self-reliance; 10) Trusting others; 11) Capitalizing on strength; 12) Working with resistance to achieve goals.

This is a very hard work.


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