Humility and change leadership

By William Seidman One of the most interesting aspects of working with positive deviants—people who are purpose-driven and open to ideas that help them achieve their purpose—is that they are very aware that their knowledge is limited. Even though they are often experts in their particular functions, they are aware and even admit that they don’t know everything. I find that leaders of many organizations don’t have this humility, particularly when they are trying to lead a significant change. Over the last two years, I’ve observed several companies undergoing a major transformation that ultimately failed or that may not survive in the long run. One of the main reasons for this failure is that the leaders were arrogant in thinking they knew everything and didn’t have much to learn from others. They applied the usual management paradigms to their situations and expected to succeed without ever considering one very important possibility: That they didn’t know what they didn’t know. This is straight out of one of the great books on change: “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” With the emergence of the science of positive deviance, the neuroscience of learning, and surprising research on motivation and persuasive technologies, change leadership has become a science in its own right. Changing an organization’s culture, or just improving performance, can be done in a scientific, predictable, and highly cost-effective way. But most leaders don’t know or care about these advances. In change leadership, too many executives are arrogant about what they know and ignorant about what they should know. What they need to know now is that a little humility goes a long way in achieving significant, organization-wide change.  ]]>

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