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What You Dare Not Neglect in Leading Change

Written by Chuck Olson

What You Dare Not Neglect in Leading Change

There’s no debate that listed at the top of a leader’s job profile is the capacity to lead CHANGE. It’s what leaders do. And what the successful ones do well.

One of the top-tier voices in the arena of change is John Kotter, Professor of Leadership Emeritus at Harvard Business School and founder of Kotter International. Arguably his most significant contribution to the topic of change is his bestselling book, Leading Change. In this insightful and practical book, he presents his legendary eight-step process for leading change.

Allow me to outline his change process and make a comment or two about each step.

And then I’d like to offer one observation for your consideration.

  1. Establishing a sense of urgency. Any change initiative is DOA in a context where complacency reigns unchecked.
  2. Creating the guiding coalition. A key step on the pathway to effective change is selecting a group of people to navigate the process who among other things bring expertise and credibility.
  3. Developing a vision and strategy. Change is possible only when there is a vision that is compelling and inspiring, aligned with clear steps toward implementation.
  4. Communicating the change vision. In every way possible, the voice of change needs to drown out the voice of status quo.
  5. Empowering broad-based action. Create the context for change by removing barriers and retooling systems that undercut the vision.
  6. Generating short-term wins. Make a big deal about steps of progress by recognizing those who are forwarding the vision.
  7. Consolidating gains and producing more change. Capitalize on the momentum by advancing even more steps of change. For example, replace old-model policies and recruit people who have the commitment and capacity to make the vision happen.
  8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture. Call out the connection between how new approaches and actions translate into organizational success, and ensure succession by investing in the leadership development of your people.

I am sure you would agree that Kotter offers a formidable, not to mentioned time-tested, construct for leading change.

But I have a question—a question for those of us who are committed to bringing spiritual leadership to our sphere of influence. It goes like this: In leading change, where does the compelling vision come from?

Most leadership models would contend that the source of vision is the portfolio of the key leader. But herein lies a fundamental point of departure for those who practice a different model of leadership.

The spiritual leadership model posits that vision is not developed but discovered. Simply stated, the heart of spiritual leaders is to discern God’s plans, not invent their own. Henry and Richard Blackaby in their book Spiritual Leadership put it this way: There are a number of helpful definitions of leadership available, but we believe true spiritual leadership can be defined on one concise statement: Spiritual leadership is moving people on to God’s agenda.

Accepting the premise that spiritual leaders seek out vision from God, then it becomes their job to be exceptional listeners. To that end, I leave you with a few questions worth pondering:

  • What practices do you engage in regularly that amplify your ability to hear God’s voice?
  • What distractions do you need to eliminate so that you might more fully recognize the presence of God in your life and leadership?
  • Does the pace of your life allow you to notice the activity of God around you?

Important questions.

Essential questions.


Chuck Olson

As founder and president of Lead With Your Life, Dr. Chuck Olson is passionate about inspiring, resourcing and equipping Kingdom leaders to lead from the inside out.  To lead, not with the external shell of positions, achievements or titles, but from an internal commitment to a deep, abiding and transparent relationship with Jesus. Serving as a pastor and leadership coach for over forty years, Chuck has a track record of building these truths deep into the lives of both ministry and marketplace leaders.

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