The Slovenia Times

The Persuasive Change Leader



Who can be considered a manager or leader? What are the significant differences between the two?
''Leaders do the right thing, while managers do things right'' aptly sums up the key difference between leaders and managers. Leaders are concerned with providing vision and direction to the organisation while managers are more concerned with the tasks involved in implementing the vision. Leaders need to focus on the big picture and the overall architecture and mission of the firm. However the most effective leaders understand in great detail what managers need to do to execute the strategy. Leaders should not micro manage but they do need to be micro informed about how the business model works, how to inspire and mobilise people and how to get execution by reaching down to managers and employees effectively. There is a story about a leader and a group of managers lost in a jungle who begin to chop down the trees to get out of the jungle. The leader climbs a tree and finds they are going in the wrong direction but the managers say ''Leave us alone-we are getting a lot of work done''. This is the key difference in approach.

What are the challenges of change in the business environment these days and which models do you suggest to implement them?
Change always presents challenges for organisations, but in the current economic environment the price of failure is exceptionally high - for many organisations, the choice is to change or die. We have seen bankruptcy rates of organisations of all types, from local shops to global banks, increase dramatically over the last few years. These organisations were unable to adapt quickly enough to the huge changes that have occurred in their external environment. A rapid deterioration in economic conditions can force businesses to implement a whole series of unplanned changes simultaneously, including finding new markets for their products or services; for many this may also mean a first venture outside their domestic market. At the same time these businesses must redesign business processes to maximise efficiency and in many cases, cut costs, including staff costs.
For most organisations, implementing any one of these changes would present a significant challenge, even with the time and money available to manage change in a textbook fashion. But when we consider the additional difficulty of making all these changes simultaneously, with diminishing resources and under severe time pressure, it is perhaps unsurprising that many fail. In this context, those of us who teach change management are challenged to move beyond simplistic models that assume that changes occur sequentially and that there are unlimited resources available to help with implementation. Today's change managers require models of change management that will help them synchronise the implementation of several large scale changes at once and to do so while reducing expenditure.

Who is a change leader? Which characteristics make a change leader become persuasive?
We all need to be change leaders as the need for change requires support at all levels of the organisation. Of course, change champions are needed at all levels. These are key opinion leaders who embrace change and help to build support through ''mood contagion'' which spreads the inspiration of change throughout the organisation. Of course, there is an important role for those who question change,-these people help to sharpen the leadership focus and provide feedback to improve the change effort. The main characteristic of a persuasive leader is that they command respect and that they are seen as people of integrity. Respect for a leader develops when the values of the leader are evident and integrity based. Of course, technical ability and business acumen generates respect as does interpersonal skill in handling people. Respect is at the heart of being a persuasive leader-respect for oneself and for all other people. There are key techniques in speech making which are a great help to leaders also and we will be teaching these in our programme.

Leading change through networks? In what way must a persuasive change leader be innovative?
Innovation develops when new ideas are brought into supportive environments. It is critical to have boundary spanners in the organisation-people who network across internal boundaries such as R &D, manufacturing, marketing and sales in order to integrate functions to produce new innovative products. Customers are often a great source of innovation -so we must stay close to our customer, listen to their voices and make sure their voices get heard in the boardroom. There is a good rule in innovation: ''confirm early and disconfirm late''. This means that we encourage new ideas and do not shoot them down at the beginning. In that way people are encouraged to come up with new ideas.

Nowadays, what can be a source of knowledge and inspiration on how to lead change in organisations?
Recently we interviewed a dozen CEOS in Ireland and the most inspirational of these were those who worked in the voluntary sector taking care of people who are unable in many cases to take care of themselves. The selflessness of leaders, managers and employees who work with little financial reward on behalf of those who cannot repay them is truly quite remarkable and inspirational. We can still learn a great deal about the self-sacrifice, vision and hard work needed to lead and implement change from those great leaders such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Their messages, which we use in the classroom, have an enduring capacity to inspire and do so across cultures which is very encouraging to us in our executive development work.

What is your opinion about change leaders in Slovenia? Why is Slovenia a challenge for you?
Slovenia has a unique history, which testifies to the ability of her people to adapt and survive in even the most challenging circumstances. These same capabilities are now needed to ensure that Slovenia's businesses and institutions will emerge from the current downturn fully prepared to compete in the global economy. Operating in a relatively small economy within the euro zone, Slovenia's change leaders will need to develop organisations that are competitive, innovative, and performance-oriented. For most businesses, sustainable growth will require them to perform as effectively outside the Slovenian marketplace as within it. It will require Slovenian managers to have the confidence and skills to develop economically viable partnerships with customers and suppliers, regardless of their location. It will require Slovenian change leaders to have the skills to adapt their business models and leadership skills to be equally effective across many different environments and cultures.
We are based in Ireland, which in the past decade has experienced dramatic changes at all levels of business and society. Important and very painful lessons have been learned, not least about the risks of incentivising individual performance and the crucial importance of effective regulation. Nevertheless, progress is being made and the export side of the Irish economy remains, in many ways, a model of global competitiveness for a small, euro zone economy.
In Ireland, we are working with Government agencies to develop programmes that help owners and managers to grow their businesses to their full potential in the global marketplace. Elsewhere in Europe, we work with organisations to develop their strategic change leadership capabilities. Our experience to date with Slovenian managers suggests that they are innovative, capable and very open to learning from the experience of others. We value the opportunity to work with you to develop your own change models and look forward to meeting you in Ljubljana.


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