There is no magic wand for leading change. There is no formula that one can simply follow to reach success. But I observed that those who achieve success beyond what is hoped for, do so out of plain conviction, resolute will and unwavering spirit. Intellect joins passion joins skill to remove mountains, leapfrog the ordinary, create from imagination.
plain conviction + resolute will + unwavering spirit = change
Many books on leading change are written by business authors for business leaders. There are those who offer key steps, as in a process. Others who specify ‘ingredients’ for success. A number offer the view that change is about the leader making a compelling case for change, a case that resonates viscerally with the people so they are inspired to make the move.
Yet for all of these wise and experience-laden advice, I think that the most successful leaders who led change were those who did it out of plain conviction, resolute will and unwavering spirit, moving towards the far horizon where change, transformation, lies. Business leaders who lead like this create legacies beyond their tenure, even beyond their lifetime.
Nelson Mandela (born Rolihlahla Mandela) led change in South Africa. Not from a position of power but from a position of weakness. Thrown into jail where he spent 26 years of his life, his writings bore wings that touched many in his country and those outside. He was consistent in his message, drawn from the heart.
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” – Mandela, 1964, Rivonia Trial.
Mandela rejected the offer of a conditional release because that would have been against his conviction.
“I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated. I will return.” – Mandela, 1985.
When he was convicted of treason, he understood that he could face death.
“When we faced the prospect of the death sentence, we knew, we resolved to walk the plank, not protesting our innocence, but proclaiming the justness of our ideals and the certainty of their triumph.” – Mandela, 1964.
“Prison is itself a tremendous education in the need for patience and perseverance. It is, above all, a test of one’s commitment. Those who passed through that school have all acquired a firmness, tempered by a remarkable resilience.”
After Mandela, I think of Mother Teresa (born Agnes Gonxha Bajaxhiu, from Macedonia). But what kind of success did she achieve? Not the kind that we would ordinarily see. She wanted to help the poorest of the poor. After two years of planning and prayer, the Catholic Church gave her permission to leave the convent, then she started a community dedicated to serve the poorest of the poor. She started by living in the slums in Calcutta, India. At the time of her death, 47 years after she started this community, she was operating over 500 missions in over 100 countries. Beyond this, she inspired many to contribute, to do something together that is beautiful for God.
“As I often say to people who tell me that they would like to serve the poor as I do,” Mother Teresa said, “ ‘What I can do, you cannot. What you can do, I cannot. But together we can do something beautiful for God.’ ”
These two examples are not from the business world*, but they exemplify what can be done when plain conviction, resolute will and unwavering spirit sets out to make a change, be the change and lead change.
How powerful would it be if a business leader defines their mission beyond the usual business mantras and numbers, to that which is beyond self, beyond the company, to that of building up the community and leaving a legacy for the world.
So how about you? Thinking differently about the change you want to lead in your team, how can you lead like this? What is your mission? Are you defining it beyond self, even beyond your team? Starting small, what can you lead with conviction?
For examples in the business world, read “True North” by Bill George.