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Why ‘Human’ leaders hold the key to Change management Success!

This article looks beyond the ‘crisis’ affecting the world, to dive into what is really at play here. Life on Earth has never been static but keeps evolving instead. So does Humanity… with strong implications for the concepts of Leadership & Change.

by Evelyne Legaux on 17-01-2023


Crisis really? Or rather Evolution?


Looking back at the past three years, it is clear that the world has been going through extraordinary times ,not only in terms of global supply chain disruptions, exacerbated geopolitical tensions, unprecedented macroeconomic challenges, etc…, but also - and most importantly - with regards to the role of businesses within societies & communities and what it takes to be a leader in today’s world…

Beyond the many challenges & uncertainty, the world is actually going through a fundamental evolutionary process on a human level, and to say that it will never be the same again in many respects is only a fair assessment.

Truth is the ongoing crucial realisation of what it means to be a human being and acknowledging our vital dependency on / indispensable respect owed to nature & biodiversity, have never been so clearly at the forefront of thought-leadership thinking.


As always, it takes some kind of catastrophe or survival threatening circumstances for the world to re-invent itself & move forward into a new phase of evolution.

It is therefore no surprise that such a defining moment is happening now… and equally no surprise that human leadership finds itself at the core of it all…

In such a wider context, business leaders are increasingly expected to position themselves & to play an active role in relation to societal & political matters. While environment & climate related considerations do lead the momentum through new ESG disclosure requirements in particular, the actual change at play here goes far beyond compliance & reputational concerns.


In actual facts, nothing less than the essence of leadership is at play.


The core values that define what leadership genuinely is all about, are eventually starting to make full sense to the world, therefore to impose themselves as evidence or as a MUST!

With many leaders having this far played their role without fully understanding &/or implementing those values – and I include myself here - the present evolution is obviously good news for humanity at large.



So, what are those core Values that sustain Leadership?


  • First & foremost, leaders need to be authentic, meaning they need to understand

who they truly are as humans & connect to the essence of their inner being.

When leaders are grounded in their true Self, they lead from a place of alignment with their own core human values & truth. As such, they become conscious of what truly matters to other people, therefore can only demonstrate empathy, care & compassion towards them.

Authentic leaders have that ability to see the world through other people’s lens which, in turn, enables them to lead effectively. Knowing how to influence other people with compassion as opposed to authority, then becomes naturally obvious to them.


  • Leaders also need to be humble, meaning able to recognize & accept that all human

beings have limitations in what they can deliver on or endure, therefore may need help or support at some point along their respective journey.

Humble leaders are thus best positioned to encourage other people to become the best version of themselves & act accordingly.


  • Leaders must also create truly inclusive cultures that guarantee human beings’ basic

needs for respect, safety & a sense of belonging are met, no matter people’s gender, sexual orientation and ethnic, cultural or social background.

Often times, companies develop ‘Dignity at work’ type policies and foster Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) events merely for compliance purposes and to be perceived on the market as employers of choice. The reality on the ground however can be very different because of a damaging, if not devastating, lack of understanding &/or acceptance of what it truly means for a work environment to be inclusive.

Leaders who genuinely embrace D&I are able to facilitate the creation of a work organization model that empowers people from the ground up, as opposed to a controlling type model driven from the top down that, sooner or later, will lead to failure.

In this regard, drawing a parallel analogy with the respective type of leadership displayed by the two parties involved in the ongoing war in Ukraine, is quite enlightening…

A blunt reality is that today’s world doesn’t need & no longer accepts leaders who are driven by their egoic mind & aim to position themselves as heroes. Instead, people are craving leaders who consider themselves as humans before anything else, and lead others from the heart to protect what truly matters to us all.



How does conscious Leadership relate to Change management?


As leaders come to realize that - no matter how brilliant a business strategy or a new technology might be - success is all about the people, the concept of conscious leadership flourishes & becomes most helpful to drive change effectively.

Irrespective of the nature of a transformation project - whether it is aiming at evolving an operating model, harmonizing global business processes, adopting digital technology or otherwise – the key to success resides with the people impacted.


Likewise, leaders should be aware of and pay close attention to the ‘change fatigue’ factor that is currently gaining momentum after the past few years of disruption & pressure to transform. While businesses experienced strong cross-functional rallying of people behind top priorities & acceptance of change during the Covid-19 pandemic, fatigue is now a key emerging risk that can cause heightened resistance to change, if not staff attrition altogether.

To mitigate such risk, it is essential for organizations & leaders to understand what their people expect from them, that is to be seen & valued as human beings, NOT just employees or staff members.


With the above in mind, it is clear that any old-school type change management approach that is driven top-down & prescriptive in spirit, is most unlikely to work… Going back to the earlier made analogy, leaders must instead demonstrate creativity to come up with a different type of approach that is human-centred & collaborative.


So, what are the practical actions that organizations can take to lead change towards success?

  • Involve people – People need to be recognized & valued for their value-add or the contribution they can make. They need to actively feel part of the change journey & decision-making process. The key here is to involve the right people on the right topics at the right time. Creativity is definitely of the essence as leaders may need to come up with small groups of employees focused on questions that will leverage their respective expertise & input. A side-benefit for leaders when doing so is that decision-making becomes a lot more transparent therefore less prone to people’s resistance or disengagement.


  • Communicate honestly – People need to be given a genuine chance to express feelings, share opinions & raise questions throughout the change process. Beyond being formally informed about what will happen & why, they need to understand the vision, emotionally connect to it &embrace it for what it is, if they are to actively support it & feel committed to the change journey. People also need to feel understood & supported whenever faced with anxiety or other challenges. Recurring company town hall type meetings - with a mechanism for employees to submit questions - are an effective communication strategy. Leaders should also consider nominating ‘change champions’ on the ground, conducting mood surveys & running regular team/group interactive meetings focused on the change at stake.


  • Empower people – An excellent way to engage employees is to trust their professionalism & granular knowledge of the job at stake, and to empower them to own the project implementation steps. Trusting their ability to map out the journey from the ‘as is’ status to the desired ‘to be’ status and to be accountable for the outcome, is a powerful source of motivation for people & a smart way for leaders to drive change effectiveness.


The key takeaways here are beautiful & inspiring:


  • People want to co-pilot the project & related change impact, not just take a backseat.
  • Hero-leaders are a thing of the past. Conscious leaders own the keys to success, going forward.
  • To manage change successfully, leaders must connect to & lead from their human ‘beingness’, in order to win the hearts of their people…



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