What does it take to lead well in this complex age? A lot.

I recently asked this on Facebook and I got a pile of great answers. Nearly every answer pointed below the surface of the leader. No one mentioned more education or more compelling keynotes. I don’t sense we’re longing for better vision casters with greater competency, but leaders who possess an inner wisdom and discernment. 

Rapid change is shifting our paradigms and creating a gnawing sense of overwhelm. I coach leaders into personal growth and consult organizations into organizational growth. This means I accidentally find myself in the change leadership business. Organizational change is loaded with baggage!

Before change yields opportunity it reveals fear. We have a complicated relationship with change. The authors of The Practice of Adaptive Leadership say, “People love change when they know it is a good thing. No one gives back a winning lottery ticket. What people resist is not change per se, but loss.” In other words, we usually grieve what we are losing before we long for what we are gaining. 

I shared some basic change dynamics in a past post, but I want to dig deeper in this post. Change gets even more complicated for leaders. We are processing organizational changes and leading others through them simultaneously. It’s hard enough to control our own reactions to change let alone those in the organization around us! 

In order to navigate both the fear and opportunity hidden within change I believe we need to grow in three specific (and challenging) competencies. 


Diagnosis We must analyze backward as we ask, “What is really going on here?

We look back for clues from the past that can bring a greater clarity for the present. The past shouldn’t rule us, but it must always inform us.

Self-awareness We must cultivate inward as we ask, “What am I/are we uniquely designed to do? What must I/we learn?

In my experience, this is the most neglected for leaders and organizations. Comparing ourselves to and copying from others won’t do the trick; we must do the hard, slow work here. Healthy self-awareness leverages our strengths and identifies our weaknesses. 

Execution We must activate forward as we ask, “Where are we going? What are the next right steps to get there?

We are vision-obsessed in Western culture, so we instinctively run here for results. We speed here without unearthing the past, or fully comprehending ourselves and or the organization.   

Many of these are easy to begin but hard to continue. If you want to continually innovate as a leader, team or organization one of these won’t do it. The challenge is to continually and rhythmically analyze backward AND cultivate inward AND activate forward.

Which of these comes most naturally to you?

Which of these comes least naturally to you?

Which of these must you address in this season?