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Why Leadership Matters: Managing Change

Loss is tough, but did you know that the hardest part of loss for most people is just the change? All change is loss, and even if it is the loss of a bad circumstance or an unwanted habit, loss causes grief.
10/30/2014 07:52pm ET | Updated December 30, 2014
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When you realize your identity as a leader (and as I said in my last post, we are all leaders) you will soon develop the ability to change your circumstances.

This sounds positive, but change is not easy. In fact, change, even desired change, is the point at which most people stop.

Most of us accept that someone who has suffered a loss will go through a grief process. We know it will take time. Many of us might suggest counseling, recognizing that people who have suffered a loss need understanding and support. We universally accept that loss is difficult.

Loss is tough, but did you know that the hardest part of loss for most people is just the change? All change is loss, and even if it is the loss of a bad circumstance or an unwanted habit, loss causes grief.

We are hard-wired to desire routine and sameness. It feels safer to stay the same.

This is why most of us get up, brush our teeth, get showered, get dressed, go to work, come home, eat, watch TV, go to bed, get up, brush our teeth, get showered, get dressed, go to work, etc., for years on end. We do the same things over and over, expecting different results or worse, we don't even think about the results.

So let me ask you -- if you do the same thing today that you did yesterday, that you did last week, that you did last year, what have you done?

Nothing.

Of course, doing nothing is not a trait of a successful leader. Leaders must cause and manage change.

Leaders wander off the beaten path and forge new roadways for themselves and their teams. They succeed and fail more often than others. True leaders must be willing to change themselves internally to manage the external changes caused by their decisions.

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."
-- Leo Tolstoy

Whether you are in the middle of a dismal failure or a transformative success, change is hard.

Think about it. The first time in the spotlight on a stage in front of hundreds of people rarely feels good. It feels scary, even dangerous. The first time you send your resume out for a better job, you are more likely to feel bad than good.

This is why I say learning to manage change means learning to manage emotions. You must learn to keep moving forward, even after you fall, and most especially after you succeed.

Remember, the most uncomfortable part of change is the loss of the familiar and that's the part that feels surprisingly like grief! Without knowing it, you will automatically try to sabotage your success or overreact to your failure, telling yourself "I can't handle this," or "I'll never do that again!"

This is why it is critical that leaders learn to manage their emotional resistance to change.

Practice! You can do it right now. Change something about your habitual environment. Leave early or stay late. Let an outstanding employee lead the next staff meeting. Listen more than you speak at your next conference. Lead more. Follow less. Allow others around you to shine and watch your world improve. Allow the change to occur.

Stop following your emotions. Follow your promises and manage your emotions. Emotions are rarely good indicators of the next step, especially when everything is changing.

Practice accepting the changes as they arrive. If you stick with it long enough, you'll become a master at managing change -- a true leader.

Times of change are times of opportunity, but only if we are secure in our identity and our leadership skills can we see beyond the immediate obstacles and keep moving forward. We can successfully navigate the winds of change only when we take control of our reactions to the emotional roller coaster caused by negative and positive change.

"When you're finished changing, you're finished."
-- Benjamin Franklin