During Times of Change or Crisis—How Must Leadership Change?

April 30, 2020 | Cat Kolodij

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Leading through change is always difficult as it disrupts the status quo, putting stress on the very foundation of an organization. And, leading through change that is unprecedented, far reaching and fast acting, like we’re currently experiencing, is even harder. If a leader doesn’t manage change well—their organization probably won’t either.

Why is change so difficult?

Change evokes a sense of uneasiness and dredges up a variety of questions among members of the organization: Will it be good for us? How will it impact my job? Will I have a place to engage, grow and thrive on the other side? How can I prove my value? Change forces everyone to question what they are doing, why they are doing it—and if they should ultimately stay with the organization.

 What is the key component to leading in times of change?

During times of change, good leaders must seek grounding in order to ease fears and signal stability, endurance and resilience to the changes, all while adapting, adjusting and flexing to meet the new demands. The best way to establish this grounding is to tap into a core purpose.

Organizations that are founded on a purpose are the organizations that emerge as problem solvers, expertise sharers and generous innovators. Why? Because purpose provides grounding—a constant in a sea of change. It allows an organization to shift what it does or how it does it, without losing its identity.  Purpose helps employees stay focused, connected and motivated. It allows customers to recognize the familiar characteristics, making it easier to accept the new. It establishes trust with partners that relationships formed today, will exist tomorrow.

How does an organization identify its purpose? And what happens next?

Finding Purpose

Most organizations already have an innate purpose—even if it isn’t defined.  The first step to identifying this purpose is to look inward. Listen to experiences within your organization, from the c-suite to the front lines, from old timers to newbies. Listen for common themes on what has evolved over time…and what has stayed the same.

Defining Purpose

To further refine your purpose, look outward.  Talk to customers and consumers. Listen to what they need, what they want, and how your organization fits in. With this inward and outward knowledge, you can then develop and tell the story of the organization’s purpose in a way that engages and builds a value proposition for these audiences.

Focusing and Acting on Purpose

Once your purpose is found and defined, it can now be the grounds that drives all strategies.  It will define how your company engages its audiences and tells its stories.  It informs how your organization acts—defining what it will do, ore more importantly, identify what it won’t do. Purpose-driven organizations act on their purpose in ways that strengthen their communities, solve difficult problems, and generally help make the world a bit better.

Only after finding, defining, focusing and acting on purpose can we begin to tell our stories.  And, when we do, these stories take flight, driving awareness and accelerating growth.  It is the reason why purposeful and do-good organizations succeed. Good leaders understand this essential component.  Unfortunately, it often takes a crisis or major change to make the truth of the existence of, or lack thereof, this necessity to become evident.

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