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Heraclitus may have been the original leader of change management. He said, around 500 BCE, “The only constant is change.” Today’s leaders have to not only accept change, but embrace it and lead their organizations through constantly changing circumstances. Three qualities needed to accomplish this are resilience, perseverance and scale. 

Resilience

Resilience doesn't make you a bouncy ball for others to pummel. Resilience can also be considered the emotional intelligence to right oneself after being buffeted by adversity. You are resilient when you resume your work after leadership setbacks. Too often, though, resilience is dismissed as a readily learned skill. 

Resilience is hard, says Harvard Business Review (HBR), because it calls down to the deepest levels of emotional intelligence and asks you to:

  • Confront painful realities
  • Have faith a solution exists
  • Work even with the nagging feeling of hopelessness

HBR recommends specific steps to take to foster this best of leadership qualities:

  • Adopt a growth mindset — every day is a chance to learn and move forward
  • Seek support — your team, your peers at other organizations, and outside coaches can all infuse you with resilience
  • Center your mind, body and spirit — exercise, massage, meditation and diet can all clear your head for the inevitable struggles ahead

Perseverance

Perseverance isn't the same as resilience. You can persevere in overcoming one roadblock but then give up in the face of new obstacles, lacking resilience. Fortune magazine rightly identifies perseverance as one of the leadership qualities needed to navigate an organization through change. You can count on unforced errors, accidents and interruptions. Perseverance means rallying the troops and resetting the engines of change quickly. 

To persevere, leaders must have an internal compass that never wavers. This core purpose — this internal drive — helps not only the leader, but entire teams following that leader when faced with adversity. Decisions must be made not out of fear from the most recent trouble, but out of a commitment to move forward to the whole team’s goal.

A leader perseveres by controlling that which they can control, and acknowledging the outside forces beyond their control. Work around the obstacle, not through it (and certainly do not give up). A simple and delightful way to think of perseverance, says Marquita Herald, is that perseverance is stubbornness with a purpose.

Scale

Big picture, long-term thinking, the driving force — call it what you will, but a leader who guides an organization through change does not micromanage the small changes. The leader’s eye needs to be on the large scale, the five-year goal, or the next horizon. A sense of scale is one of the most desirable leadership qualities. 

As John Kotter, the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School, states it, “Change leadership is much more associated with putting an engine on the whole change process, and making it go faster, smarter, more efficiently. It’s more associated, therefore, with large scale changes.”

Resilience, perseverance and an appreciation of scale are the top leadership qualities needed to navigate change management. 

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