Leaders as Change Agents

Herminia Ibarra, in her book Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, explains that to become the leader you want to be, you have to first do it and then reflect on what worked and what didn't. Most people do the opposite: they think about becoming the leader they want to be (or try to find the time for this), rather than just becoming that leader.

One of the topics Herminia delves into is how leaders need to be change agents. She explains that to do this, they need to spend time with those outside of their team and network, seeing trends and potential problems, formulating plans and strategies to deal with these, and then bringing these back to their teams.

In trying to get buy-in for their ideas, many leaders believe that it's well-formulated plans or presentations that make the difference. Herminia shows that it's actually something very different.

The idea + the process + you = success in leading change

In all Herminia's studies, classes, and observations, the above formula was the difference between successful and failed change efforts. Surprisingly though, it was the "you" part of the equation that made the most difference every time.

If you think about the "leaders" that you respect and/or follow, they're the ones that you trust. They have somehow made a personal connection with you—earned your trust and respect—so you are more open to what they have to say. Without that connection, you are less likely to care about their ideas or process. One way of making this connection is by telling stories about your life, showing how your experiences align with what you stand for, as Margaret Thatcher did.

I have written before about how important it is for leaders to be great at leading and great at sharing their vision with others. Herminia's experience and writing shows us how it's the the person behind the vision and how that vision is relayed that makes all the difference.

Can you think of a leader who inspired you? What about him/her made the difference?


Karina is VP of Operations and HR at 24/7 Teach.

A version of this was originally posted on Business Common Sense blog.

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