Leadership Lessons: 5 Critical Requirements When Leading Change

Steve Woodruff and I couldn’t be happier to be welcoming our leadership colleague Mike Henry Sr. as this week’s Leadership Chat Guest Host.  Mike is the Founder and fearless leader of the Lead Change Group, of which I am a member. 

The group’s mission is to “Encourage, Energize and Equip one another to apply character-based leadership to Lead Change…” and its vision includes “instigating a leadership revolution.”

Now, if you look up “revolution” in the dictionary you’ll find phrases like, “a sudden, complete or marked change.” This is not a tiny little process change Mike and our Lead Change Group are envisioning. Rather, it’s a significant shift to character-based leadership and to leading from within ourselves, of which I am an ardent devotee.

This leads us to the question we’ll be pondering, discussing and debating tomorrow night at Leadership Chat, “What does it take for a leader to effectively lead change?”

These are the attributes I believe are required to lead change effectively, with a clear purpose, and not solely for the sake of change.

1. Will

A leader needs the will to change and the will to withstand resistance to change. They need the will to help others through the change psychologically and emotionally, especially when followers experience fear throughout the process. 

What’s empowering about change in the larger world, and broader sense, is that you do not have to wait for someone’s permission to lead. (Of course, this will be different in a corporate environment.) 

Mike talks eloquently about how we often wait for circumstances or other people to give us permission to create the change we want to be in the world. Instead, as Gandhi advocated, we should simply give ourselves permission to “be the change you want to see in the world.”

2. A Clear Vision of the Change

To nurture and drive dramatic change effectively requires a vision of a better future in which the leader believes wholeheartedly, and toward which s/he moves deliberately. Visionary leadership makes all the difference.

This vision has to be clear, not muddled.  The leader must not only see it in their mind but know what it will feel like with all five of their senses when they’ve arrived. For, in creating this clear understanding of what they are driving toward, they will know more instinctively when they are being thrown off course.

Mike asks a brilliant question when it comes to ordaining our own vision for change, “What problem are you here (on this Earth) to solve?” And I’ll take that one step further, “What will the world look and feel like when you do?”

3. The Ability to Clearly Communicate the Vision

This is critical and I believe a downfall of many leaders. If a leader cannot clearly communicate their vision – what the world will be like through all five senses when it has been achieved – then people will be hesitant and perhaps fearful of following the leader and bringing this vision to life.

Importantly, the leader’s vision has to be in the best interest of followers or they will not support it.  The vision needs to be shared in a way that helps followers see the vision through their own eyes: what will the world be like for them, the security they will feel, how their needs will be met, etc… In essence, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs should be in the back of the leader’s mind as they lay out their vision and make it relevant to their followers.

4. Passion that Empowers Inspiration

Some might debate this, but if I’m going to undertake an initiative for change and take people from the precontemplative stage of change to action, then I know I’m going to have to have to be passionate about my vision and capable of inspiring others to follow.  Otherwise, my energy will wane, and then too will my followers.

This is one area where character-based leadership becomes imperative. The ability to say, “I am the change I want to see in the world,” to know you are leading from within yourself, and to make this evident to the world, becomes an inspiration to others.

5. Clear Strategies and Tactics for Execution

It goes without saying that vision and inspiration will never be enough without clear strategies to bring the vision to life and tactics that are well thought-out. Strategies must align with the vision in order to create the picture you’re driving toward, and tactics must be practical and empower followers at the same time.

It is for this stage that Mike talks about bringing the best of who you are and empowering the best of others.  When your followers are in roles that bring out their skills and abilities to make a positive difference, then you are poised to create change together.

~What would you add to this list of requirements for leading change?~

Please share in the comments and join the conversation at Leadership Chat, tomorrow night at 8:00 pm Eastern Time on Twitter! Mike, Steve Woodruff, and I are eagerly anticipating your insights and hope you’ll share your experiences with us.


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Greater than Yourself Leadership: How to Change the World

The Difficult Follower: Is It You?


Photo is from the Lead Change Group Home Page.


  1. Henry Motyka says:

    Let’s examine some of the steps above.

    1. You don’t need permission. This is such a true statement. Many who are afraid to lead change don’t realize that management wants change and will gladly embrace it if it is for the better. Most upper level managers don’t need to be told. They appreciate action. Of course, the usual caution is appropriate here. You can’t go off and do something unusual that will cause a problem.

    I ran a financial software product support group at a Big 4 firm. I saw the need to transform it. I did not ask anyone. I just did it. Management was very happy. It showed initiative. Of course, they may have also been happy because they did not have to plan it out or oversee the process. It just got done.

    It was the same way when I had people working for me in that group. Many times, they did something wonderful without asking me. I was quite happy. By the way, those are the type of people who tend to get promoted.

    2. I didn’t necessarily have a clear vision of change in the example I just mentioned though it would have helped if I did,. I felt that things weren’t right. Once the change started happening, I did plan out a lot of it. I may have just been too young at the time to realize the planning that should have taken place.

    3. The ability to clearly communicate the vision is important, and what could be meant by communicating is leadig by doing. I feel it is so important for management to live up to the promise of change by living it. Managemt can set the cultural tone.

    4. Passion may be the most important thing. It’s so easy to fall into the same old thing and then forget to implement change.

    5. Clear tactics and strategies are so necessary. If they are not clear see 3 in the original post. Want to create problems and unhappy employees? Don’t give clear direction.. What an easy way to sabotage the process. People talk so fast. Stop the talking. Let them know what you really want.
    Get them to buy in.

    • Henry,

      I love how all of these points genuinely resonate with you! You’re so right about how leaders appreciate initiative and a penchant for action from their teams. Having people on board who recognize problems and are able to take the initiative to address them is very valuable to the organization. And I agree with you about how lack of clear direction leads to unhappy employees!

      Thanks so much for sharing your own personal experience here – I sincerely appreciate it!

  2. Such a timely post Lisa. Many times corporations will simply focus on strategy and statistics without really gauging the connection points within their organization. If everyone simply has a task list but no vision or purpose it certainly waters down the overall impact the company will have. I plan on using some of your thoughts in my meeting this week with my team. I will be shouting “Follow Lisa Follow Lisa” :)

    Thanks for your insights!
    Jonathan Saar´s last blog post ..Leadership on Steroids- Happy Anniversary #Leadershipchat!

    • Jonathan,

      I couldn’t be happier to know that it’s relevant to your current role and that you’ll be using it with your team. Yes, ensure that they understand the vision you’ve set and how they are playing a direct role in bringing that vision to life, and you will discover fully engaged team members! Best to you and hope to see you tonight on #LeadershipChat!

  3. Such a good summary! One can’t help but note how vision and execution are bound up together throughout. One often sees people overvaluing vision or execution, to the detriment of the other–arising from their own skill set. To the extent an individual is more of a thinker or a doer by temperament or habit s/he needs to get over it… and work from the outside-in, based on who they’re serving. When a vision is bound up in execution it can include the adaptability to be achieved. When execution is bound up in vision it can move far beyond what’s been done before…. Thanks for a thought-provoking post….
    James Strock´s last blog post ..Goldman Sachs Report: USA to be Top World Oil Producer by 2017

    • James,

      Thanks for such a thought-provoking look at it! I appreciate that. I think what we’re both getting at is the balance – the need for vision and execution just as you talk about the thinker and the doer. Thanks so much for your kind words, for being here and for taking the time to comment!


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