Leading Change: What does Change mean to You?

The other day I heard a senior leader say: “More than ever we live in times of change. Our organization will have to face the fact that what was will disappear. We will have to adjust and reinvent ourselves or we will be pushed aside and others will take our place.”

True, we live in times of change. But, do we face more change than ever before? Is that true? Many of us like to believe that. Yes, globalization, rising of the BRIC countries and other emerging economies, technological innovation, social media, to name a few, they all have a strong impact on organizations and societies. And yes, companies are facing a lot of changes. And yes, these changes can cause uncertainty, and temporary chaos and disruption. But is it actually ‘worse’ than ever before?

In fact, change is everywhere around us. It always was and always will be. Our lives, the whole universe exists by the grace of continuous change. We all know this because we experience it every day. Not a day is the same. Our bodies change non-stop. The weather is always changing. Plants and trees, rocks, rivers, and seas change. Our relationships, friends, colleagues, customers, suppliers, they all change. We live through change every day and we are extremely capable of dealing with it.

Why then do leaders experience difficulties in leading change? Why do leaders perceive the changes of today as more complex compared to before? A big part of the answer can be found in the fact that the technological evolution in the world shows an exponential growth. During our grandparents’ lives there was a great technical evolution, during our lives even more, and in our childrens’ lives this evolution curve will still grow steeper. The impact of this technological progress, its consequences and its possibilities are huge. The speed of change has increased and the time for companies, leaders and employees to respond and adjust to it seems to be shorter and shorter.

Essentially it is our mental model towards change that defines whether leading change turns out to be a painful burden or a challenging learning experience. Change itself has not become more complex, but the average time to absorb it has decreased. In the past decades organizational changes could be boxed in time bound projects. Roll it out, perceive it as an assignment, get it over with, and return to doing normal business again. Nowadays that seems less and less possible. Change has become a structural part of business reality and it is there to stay.  So the challenge for leaders is to adopt this mental model themselves before they can lead change successfully. Not just by talking about it, but also by their actions. The more they support cultures in which change is approached as something continuous (in which flexibility, resilience, vigilance, proactive behavior and innovation are imbedded), the more their teams will be able to embrace and achieve successful change. It starts with the leaders’ mind set.

Let’s put it in more black and white terms: you find two kinds of leaders, those who lead change as a continuous learning experience versus those who do not … yet.  And their mental models are reflected in the successes their people achieve. A difference between two kinds of leaders:

  • Those who see change as being continuous versus those who see it as a one-off assignment
  • Those who see their success as something temporary versus those who are fighting to keep it
  • Those who believe everything is possible versus those who believe their future depends on the past
  • Those who let change evolve versus those who hide in procedures to keep everybody between the lines
  • Those who see life as non-stop learning experience versus those who believe they have reached their ‘destination’ and don’t want to move anymore
  • Those who keep their teams alert for change versus those who let their teams nod off
  • Those who see resistance to change as fuel for dialogue, improvement and insight versus those who regard it as disturbing and annoying
  • Those who radiate energy and personal motivation versus those who show fatigue and negative emotions
  • Those who believe they can gain something versus those who believe they will lose something

What does change mean to you?


As international business advisor, facilitator and coach Aad supports companies and their leaders in achieving sustainable business success in times of change and innovation.  If you’re interested to learn more about Aad’s services, click here.

8 Comments on “Leading Change: What does Change mean to You?

  1. Love this post! A lot of my work as been with churches that seem to be allergic to change. One strategy I have used to help them understand change as something normal is to talk about living orgasms and how they are constantly changing. Our world is more like a rain forest than it is a concrete parking lot. As a rain forest, there is constant movement and constant regeneration. The only things that are not in a state of flux are the fossils.


  2. I liked your thoughts regarding the evolution of change. It got me to wondering whether the evolution of the human mind (at least those of some struggling leaders) has not evolved fast to handle the speed of change as it has evolved. Thank you for this great post.


  3. Great post, Aad. THIS is what is meant by adopting a “change mindset.” Too many have abused and disused that concept by morphing it into “you need to change your mindset (as a resistor) to MY mindset (boss; change leader; supplier/vendor/consultant).



  4. Pingback: Stop Believing These Persistent Myths About Leading Change | LeadershipWatch

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