We Are Using a Set of Beliefs and Assumptions That No Longer Serve Us

In my previous blog post, I identified the gap between our noble intentions and our reality that is the primary source of value destruction in organizations, and exhaustion in leaders (Read it here: "The Gap: How to Unintentionally Destroy Value and Exhaust Yourself in the Process"). Today, I will focus on the first source of friction and drag that may be destroying value and exhausting you in the process: We are using a set of beliefs and assumptions that no longer serve us.

There are many leadership assumptions that destroy value and exhaust us in the process, but I will focus on the two most destructive. The first is that "change can be managed." Please be crystal clear on this point: Change management is an oxymoron. It is underpinned by notions of predictability, safety and control. Its primary tools are the change manager, the change team and the change plan. But in the immortal words of the great poet and pugilist, Mike Tyson: "Every man has a plan to beat me, until I punch him in the face."

Leading in the 21st century means we will be metaphorically "punched in the face" many times because change is the only constant in our organizations. As a result, leading change must be the day job of an organization's most senior leaders, starting with the CEO -- not a group of delegates. Change cannot be managed, it must be led. And if you think the difference is semantics, then I suspect more chaos is on your horizon.

The second destructive assumption is that in order for people to change, we must instil in them a sense of urgency and fear. This is often colloquially referred to as a burning platform.

A leader's use of fear inducing strategies can be as much a sign of limited leadership capability as it is a sign of genuine and urgent crisis. After all, it's much easier to scare the life out of people, than it is to inspire them with a compelling vision of the future.

So before you light a fire under those you lead, understand that anxiety is the single most contagious human emotion. It encourages many physical and psychological consequences that turn chaos into more chaos. If you want people to act on your vision, you need to create a burning ambition: a fire from within.