Updated: Jan 5, 2021
"The only thing that remains the same is change". "Change is a constant".
AND: Change happens in an instant, in a heartbeat.
The kind of people I tend to work with are leaders of change. Visionaries. Different thinkers. Pioneers of new ways of doing things. Pioneers of the great UNdoing.
And yet, when we meet, most are still pressed firmly into the mold of change leadership 'as we know it'; change leadership as YOU know it and as I know it. Change leadership that involves strategy, vision and implementation, leadership that involves a carefully detailed communications strategy, endless conversations to generate buy-in - all while designing a new way of doing things that will somehow fit into the complete new system we all know we need but none of us can fully grasp in its entirety.
Change as we know it involves small step change. It involves compromise. Sometimes it involves setbacks and it always seems to involve the risk of going back to the status quo. It involves consultation and making sure people feel heard.
Change as we know it is pretty "PC".
And yes, that has it's place. But what if its BS?
Then there is a revolutionary, activism / direct action sort of change... change where we are prepared to sacrifice the 'rules' - at least temporarily - for a higher, seemingly more significant cause. This change is usually fueled less by positive vision, and more by righteous anger and is employed by those 'not in power'. But even this kind of change follows a set of rules - disrupt, demand, polarize - and at it core it still accepts that change will take a long time of 'pushing harder'.
Usually there's a level of mutual distrustful suspicion and judgement between the 'leaders of the revolution' and the 'leaders from within', even though, at times, wanting the same thing.
In 411 BC, Aristophanes' comedy "Lysistrata" was first performed in Athens. As a woman, I have felt a bizarre kind of fascination with this story ever since I first heard about it as a teenager. For those unfamiliar, the play tells the tale of how Lysistrata, wife to one of Athens' most powerful senators, convenes the women of the various city-states at war with each other and persuades them to agree to a pact to end the Peleponnesian war. The pact is simple: deny their husbands all sexual pleasure until they are willing to bury the hatchet.
In ancient Athens, this worked a treat and after a short period of rather awkward encounters involving seemingly disproportionate (but what do I know) levels of sexual despair, the men agree, the war is ended and everyone lives happily ever after.
What am I getting at here? - No, I'm not suggesting celibacy as a solution to climate change (although...??)
What I'm suggesting is creativity. I'm suggesting breaking the mold of 'change leadership' and changing the way we do change.
How can we do that?
Well, as you all know, EMOTION is what creates motion - so let's start there.
Have you ever found yourself feeling so passionate about something - or so OUTRAGED by something for that matter - that continuing the status quo for even another day, another MINUTE was unacceptable?? Where change had to happen RIGHT NOW, where not another moment of how things used to be was tolerable - and where you were willing to do 'whatever it takes'??
How much were you able to achieve when you were in that state? How fast could you implement?
And how long were you willing to wait for others to 'catch up'?
We've had a beautiful series of examples of change happening in (almost) an instant in recent history. Almost from one day to the next, we banned semi-automatic weapons. We shut down the country - and the world, for that matter. We all worked from home. We no longer enter a public building without sanitizing our hands.
Change can happen almost in an instant if we are serious enough about it. If we DECIDE. And if we have enough leverage.
Sometimes that requires leadership that is unconventional. That doesn't follow due process. Leadership that burns the rule books.
You see - the visionaries among us - we like to think up better solutions. We get all inspired by them. We create leverage within ourselves... and then, almost in an instant "THE MIND" (not just our mind - it's a universal trait of human consciousness) goes to work to try and somehow integrate our new idea back into the status quo. The moment we are faced with two different 'maps of the world' we can't resist the urge to force congruence, but there are two ways of doing this: One would be to instantly THINK, DECIDE and BEHAVE consistent with our new map of the world. Like the old one never existed.
But this is scary, uncomfortable, we might get push back.
The other way of getting our ideas for progress to align with what we know about the presence is accepting that 'change is slow and takes due process'. That way we can cling onto the new idea without having to live with the discomfort of ACTUALLY changing anything - for now.
See the problem? - We're fooling ourselves by negotiating with our new reality. And we don't even require others to push back for us - we do it to ourselves.
The antidote? - Stop it.
If you can think it, you can live it. Who says we have to wait for change. Who says we need permission. Who says we can't employ every creative (read: unorthodox) method under the sun to get the result we need??
And, if I may challenge you for a moment here, if you, dear leader, find yourself challenged by the idea of 'just changing it' - could it be that it is YOUR desire to please, YOUR comfort zone, YOUR pre-conditioning, YOUR attachment to something - YOUR lack of courage that is getting in the way of your passion and better knowing?
If you're being honest with yourself and maybe the answer is 'yes', let me assure you, it is the same for all of us. It's human. We are all torn between our passion and compassion, our desire to fit in and break out, our need for certainty and our need for growth and contribution - we're all navigating these paradoxes all of the time.
Anthony Robbins talks about his daily morning ritual of plunging himself into ice cold water not as a health tonic or immunity builder (although I'm told it is) - but as a way to condition himself EVERY DAY to not negotiate in his mind. There isn't a morning where he really WANTS to do it. But there is also not a morning where he doesn't cut off all other options.
The three commitments I encourage you, myself and everyone out there in the business or on a mission of leading change to embrace are these:
DREAM: Train yourself to embrace your creativity, to allow solutions that are unorthodox, unusual or seem impossible or 'unlikely to work'. You won't know until you try.
DECIDE: To 'decide' comes from the Latin word 'decidere', meaning to 'cut off'. Once you have decided, you have officially eliminated all alternatives. So any further inner or outer negotiation or delay is only wasting energy. Raising your standards means that the new thing you want to do is now the ONLY option - going back is not.
LEAD WITH LEVERAGE: Life is about navigating pain and pleasure. Most people do more to avoid pain than they do to gain pleasure. Most people will do more for others than they will for themselves. Whatever you do, you need to find a way to link extreme discomfort to maintaining the status quo - discomfort that outweighs the comfort of habit and of certainty. And you need to link massive pleasure to doing things the new way - which might see you circle back to commitment No. 1 and engage your creativity.
(Whether this involves threatening celibacy - well, I'll leave that to you to decide, but let me assure you - I'll be the last to judge).
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