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6 characteristics of a “change capable” leader

March 13, 2014

By Mitchell Nash

When it comes to helping companies manage change and transition (mergers and acquisitions, reorgs, new products, changing markets, etc.), many firms focus on teaching leaders skills: making the business case for the change, mapping out a blueprint for how the change will happen, developing the communication plan, etc. But, we’ve found that any plan for managing organizational change that only focuses on these tactical elements of change, while ignoring the necessary emotional skills leaders need, is simply not enough.

Of course, you must have great strategies and detailed plans to execute and sustain change but, in order to do that, you also need leaders that are “change capable.” We’ve found that all “change capable” leaders have the following personality characteristics:

– Emotional intelligence: the willingness and ability to understand the varied emotional reactions that people have to change (fear, resentment, excitement, etc.) and the know-how to help people deal with their reactions in a positive way

– Empathy: the willingness and ability to fully appreciate another person’s experience of change and to not attach a value judgment to it

– Curiosity: the willingness and ability to probe for understanding and meaning

– Adaptability: the willingness and ability to modify one’s style and approach based on situation, context, and the needs of the team, group, and/or organization

– Teachability: the willingness and ability to learn from every situation(s)

– Comfort with risk: the willingness and ability to try new things and balance risk/reward

We’ve also found that when leaders with these personality characteristics show a level of openness and vulnerability, employees most often respond in kind. And when emotionally intelligent leaders are also equipped with all the skills, plans, and detailed strategies change initiatives need, their teams will almost always do whatever it takes to be successful.

So, how do you develop these critical characteristics? First, you need an environment of trust where leaders can give and receive honest feedback. You also need to be clear with your leaders about how important these personality characteristics are and you need a specific coaching plan to help cultivate these behaviors in leaders throughout the organization.

Do you have enough “change capable” leaders to get your organization to the next level?

More about Mitchell

Nash_MitchellMitchell Nash is a Regional Vice President, Principal Consultant, and leader of Linkage’s Change and Transition Leadership practice. He has over 20 years of experience leading, facilitating, and supporting large-scale change initiatives and has unique expertise in facilitating organizational impact by using technological, organizational, and leadership development solutions.

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