What Is Change Leadership?

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Wednesday, January 18, 2023
For leaders to have wide-reaching impact in an organization or society, they must embrace change with authenticity and an understanding of connections.
Featuring Jeffrey Hollender, NYU; Amy Hall, Eileen Fisher; Alan Jagolinzer, University of Cambridge; and Jan-Willem Vosmeer, Heineken
  • The traditional higher educational system encourages compartmentalized, rather than systemic, thinking, which limits individuals’ ability to have meaningful impact.
  • Change leaders must first identify a need—in business or society—and build a team and course of action around that need.
  • Empathy, adaptability, long-term vision, and commitment are critical skills for leaders to have when working to effect change.

Transcript

Jeffrey Hollender: [0:14] In order to be a change leader, you have to start thinking differently. One of the challenges we face is that we all come out of an educational system that teaches us to think in a highly compartmentalized way.

[0:28] A change leader thinks systemically. They think about the inner relationship of things, and they think about the unintended consequences of their actions.

In order to be a change leader, you have to start thinking differently.

Amy Hall: [0:37] Change leadership is the ability to really see into the emerging future, to sense what will society need in 10 years. Not just today, not tomorrow, but 10 years from now, what are the social and environmental needs that we will need to have in place or that we will need to address? 

Alan Jagolinzer: [0:58] I think change leadership starts with understanding that there is a fundamental need in society or there's a need in business, then articulating how clear that need is, and then building a team around the need, whether it's some organizational structure or an ad hoc team of people who are like-minded who can collaborate to affect change on the need or affect an action around the need.

[1:22] In order to act on the need, then change leadership also includes the ability to source resources that might be outside of business, which would include technology, to bring all the resources together, financial resources and human resources, to do action on the need.

We need to be able to make quick changes to meet the needs of that emerging future.

Hall: [1:37] Change happens throughout the company, not just in the ESG arena, not just in the sustainability team. It happens in the facilities team. It happens in the design team, the product development team, the finance team. All of those kinds of people need to be prepared with a thorough and genuine, authentic commitment to social and environmental values. 

Jan-Willem Vosmeer: [2:01] I think change is the right word because I always have said that sustainability is all about change. There are so many topics on sustainability, so it's impossible to learn everything because it goes from climate change to inclusion diversity to human rights.

Change happens throughout the company, not just in the ESG arena, not just in the sustainability team. 

[2:21] What it all connects is change, not only change in the outside world, but also what it means for organizations and how we need to adapt and adjust our way of working.

Hall: [2:34] In terms of skill sets for change leadership, I think an ability to see and hold a long-term vision and to be able to be strategic and imagine all the necessary steps to take to get to that vision is very, very important.

[2:52] Also, the ability to be empathetic, to be compassionate, and to be flexible because the emerging future changes all the time. We need to be able to make quick changes to meet the needs of that emerging future.

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