One of the frustrating facts about leading change is that it won’t work unless we are first willing to lead ourselves into the change. In his book, Deep Change, Robert Quinn said that we are all potential change agents, but the current pace of change can cause some people to become overwhelmed, slipping into the role of powerless victim or passive observer.
Successful organizational change begins at the individual level. People need to reevaluate their core values, their goals, and the methods they use to accomplish them. They need to be willing to take risks and face the possibility of failure. Quinn calls this an “organic” view of empowerment for ourselves and others.
Some leaders think of empowerment in terms of clarity of vision, delegation, and accountability. Steps include developing a clear vision, moving decision making to the appropriate level, and encouraging process improvement. These are all important activities, but Quinn believed that they will lead to incremental improvement rather than deep systemic change. Deep change requires empowerment in which leaders:
- Start with the needs of people
- Model integrity through risk taking
- Build credibility through small wins
- Encourage initiative
- Build teamwork
Quinn’s final point is that we cannot empower people. As leaders, we can only create an environment where people can empower themselves. He ended with this challenging statement:
We all would like to be more empowered. But few of us, when shown what is really involved in becoming empowered, want to pay the price. Ultimately, each of us has exactly as much power as we really want.
I’ll leave you with four questions that Quinn proposed to help us empower ourselves and others to become fully involved and engaged in deep change.
- How can I increase my own sense of meaning and task-alignment?
- How can I increase my own sense of impact, influence, and power?
- How can I increase my own sense of competence and confidence to execute?
- How can I increase my own sense of self-determination and choice?
I encourage you to review this list and identify one action you can take over the next few weeks to support yourself in your efforts as a change leader.
Dee Anne Bonebright