The 4 traits that every modern leader must have

HR plays an important role in supporting leaders across the organization to develop their leadership and change skills

The 4 traits that every modern leader must have

by Kate Sikerbol, PhD

HR plays an important role in supporting leaders across the organization to develop their leadership and change skills. True change, however, happens through the day to day efforts of leaders and line managers across the organization who train, coach and supervise the people who are directly involved in the nitty gritty of change implementation.

Leaders need to move beyond increasing people’s individual capability for change and begin to focus on developing organizational capability for change.

There are four qualities that are crucial for any successful leader: authenticity, courage, humility, and presence.

Authenticity: 
Leaders who are comfortable in their own skin, comfortable with being vulnerable, who are honest and trustworthy, will build the trust that is so important in change. It is much easier for people to embrace and adapt to change in workplaces with high trust levels, and effective change leaders need the ability to build ‘swift trust.’   

Courage:   
Demonstrating courage means creating psychological safety for others. When people feel safe to take risks and know that they will not be punished or made to feel embarrassed for asking a question, offering a suggestion or admitting a mistake, it easier to tap into the energy for change.

Humility:  Leaders who demonstrate humility engender greater commitment. The ability to say “I was wrong” and “I need help”, being able to say “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong”  are simple but powerful ways for leaders to demonstrate that they are open to learning and being coached.

Presence:  
I’m not referring to executive presence. The type of presence I’m talking about means being accessible and approachable, to be real, and deeply human, and appreciate the humanity of others. It includes the capacity to be empathetic with others.  This doesn’t mean that you agree all the time with others; it simply means a profound appreciation for the experience that someone else might be having. 

We tend to think of resistance to change as a negative, and forget that when people tell us that there may be problems, that they just might be right.  Sometimes, change means a sense of dislocation and loss:  people are being asked to give something up, something that is important to them. As leaders, we need to listen, appreciate and understand their experience. 

Evidence shows that when leaders define the change, and no one manages the change process, there is a very low likelihood of success. The odds improve when leaders define the change, and manage the process, to about 20%. The real secret lies in engaging others to both define the change and manage the process. If done effectively, the odds of a change being successful increase to 80 or 90%.

Being successful at change requires skilled change champions and transformational leadership. Change is an opportunity to build better leaders across the organization and, in doing so, develop the organization’s capacity to be ready for the next change around the corner. 

Kate Sikerbol will lead the upcoming Queen’s IRC change management course entitled ‘Change Management: Building Support for Successful Change Projects Using a Time-Tested Framework’ in Toronto on October 1-3, 2019, and on November 5-7, 2019 in Victoria.

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