There is a contradictory statement that people often use about leadership.
“Change is normal.”
The statement represents the way that we seek to deal with the anomalies of life. An anomaly is something at deviates from the norm. Essentially, it is change.
In both places that I work, “change is normal” seems to be a motto we live by.
At LifeWay, where I serve as a publishing director, we have gone through a significant amount of change. Over the four years of my tenure, we have seen a change in culture, structure, and speed of our work. From a more global perspective for us, the entire publishing industry is dealing with massive changes because of e-readers, self-publishing, and the blogosphere. Now that anyone in any place can publish their materials at any time, traditional publishers are no longer the gatekeepers of the industry. The change encountered requires us to press toward a new way of thinking about delivering content.
At The Fellowship, the church where I serve as a teaching pastor, we find change to be the normal occurrence of life. During the last five years, we’ve moved from being a commuter-oriented megachurch to a “let’s sell our property and be multi-site” church. The changes necessary to move to a new model reaches down to the very core of our methodology.
In leadership, we must learn how to navigate the perceived anomalies of culture, business, relationships, and life in general. There is little we can do to change that change will occur. Anomalies often show up when least expected. However, we can attune our minds to perceive its approaching. So how do you react to leadership anomalies?
Reject it. Sadly, some leaders believe they can ignore change or march on as if it has no bearing on their work. To say this is foolish is an understatement. Change will happen because life presses ahead. A question that is often asked by consultants to churches is: “When I’m on your church property, what decade is it?” The implication is clear. We often pick our favorite time, era, model, and ask the rest of the world to adjust to us. Whether you are the leader of a business, a family, or a charity, it is your duty to know what parts of the organization are refusing to deal with change. Once you know, then you can begin to address it properly.
Normalize it. The necessary first step is to make change a part of life. Notice that I did not say, “make it your life.” Embracing change as the only thing is a sign that the leader has no strategy. Instead, help your organization make anomaly navigation as the normal part of life and leadership. In order to do so, you must talk about change with regularity. By normalizing change, you move people into a sense of urgency rather than giving in to a sense of emergency.
Learn through it. Change is a wonderful teacher. I find that the business changes thrust upon an organization often quicken the pace of innovation. Left on our own, we will pretend that people loves us and what we offer. The perceived anomalies open the door for learning. So we must do the hard work of learning what is changing or suffer the consequences for not doing so.
Chase it with wisdom. We should pursue change… sometimes. Change for the sake of change is a fool’s errand. Change for the sake of sharpening our work is the wise man’s pilgrimage. For example, a teacher must decide between these two attitudes toward their work:
- I teach this content.
- I teach these people.
In the first scenario, my current content is the controlling factor. I know these established set of facts and everyone needs to hear them. In the second scenario, my audience needs to be prepared for life and I will develop a way to help them. One is organization-oriented and the other is market-oriented. As we know, the market will change at a more rapid pace than our organization. After all, the culture is not being held hostage by your company’s processes.
In your work, you should ask two questions:
- What changes do I need to pursue that will best supply the resources to our consumers?
- What changes do I need to pursue that will best help our workers understand how to serve our consumers?
Think beyond it.
Like many tax payers, I have often bemoaned the amount of money spent by our government through NASA. However, our space travel programs have given us advancements for everyday life that we would have never thought of otherwise. It has provided us with scratch-resistant lenses, memory foam, ear thermometers, and long-distance telecommunications. In business terms, there are hundreds of “spinoff” technologies as a result of NASA’s programs.
By strategizing beyond current anomalies, leaders are able to lead the next generation of change. When you think beyond current anomalies, you position your organization as the leaders of change. Become the leader who initiates change rather than being the one who reacts to it.
Anomalies occur because life progresses. Regardless of your leadership position, you can navigate a way forward that will benefit you, your organization, and the people you impact.