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Ten Leadership Behaviors to Master Turbulent Change

February 28, 2011

Updated January 25, 2012

Baseball great Yogi Berra had his own explanation when his batting wasn’t up to par:
“I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?”

Well, that logic may have worked for Berra but in the real world of global change and organizational upheaval placing blame on others (or in Berra’s case, an inanimate object) isn’t the most desired solution.

Some time ago, I posted a commentary on How to create a culture of innovation by following a set of 10 leadership behaviors. This post revisits those behaviors because they relate so well to how each of us can work towards mastering how we cope successfully with turbulent change.

Just look at the explosion of protests and demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa (the Arab Spring) in early 2011. Or the polarized politics in the United States, accompanied by imminent state bankruptcies and citizen protests across numerous states which became the Occupy Movement, spreading like fire around industrialized countries. Or rapid technological developments, whether in social media, telecommunications, additive manufacturing or bio-technology. Or globalization’s impact on the distribution of production around the world.

Read on to learn how you can thrive in a sea of volatile change.

1. Listen Actively:
As Stephen Covey” states in his 7 Habits, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” (Habit #5). If you’re not keenly hearing what your customers are saying or signaling, you’ll miss potential business opportunities.

2. Self-initiate:
Empower yourself by not asking for permission to be creative or to ask unorthodox questions. Be your own idea factory and actively seek out others to share and discuss.

3. Become a Change Master:
Embrace change and what’s happening in society with enthusiasm. Don’t look in the rearview mirror; look down the highway of change.

4. Be a Sponge for learning:
Never think, even for a nanosecond, that you’re almost “there” when it comes to knowledge. As humans we “know” but the smallest molecule of all the knowledge generated to the current point in time.

5. Think laterally:
When you hit the wall when it comes to trying to generate new ideas and solutions for your customers, step back and reflect on the problem through a new lens. I recommend going for a walk in the woods with your canine friend.

6. Bust Barriers:
Your ideas will drown if you remain trapped in your silo. Blow up the barriers by moving across your organization. Plant seeds with those who seem ready to embrace the new. Find change agents among your colleagues.

7. Be a Trender:
No, I’m not talking about what’s cool to wear or what music is in. Understand what’s going on in the world (see being a sponge) and try to make sense of it when it comes to your customers.

8. Become a Synthesizer:
There’s a whole lot of information out there, much of which is either useless or redundant. But there are gold nuggets of exquisite knowledge waiting to be discovered. Learn how to filter out garbage information and distill what’s really important to your business.

9. Be Adaptable:
This means being open to outcome, not attached to it. Ride the wave of change, both through rough and good times.

10. Expand Your Knowledge and Expertise:
If you want to be taken seriously by senior management when it comes to introducing ideas that could lead to innovations, it’s vital that you have a strong grasp on your own knowledge and what you bring to the table. Take time to solidify this. Then go for it!

Take some time to reflect on these behaviors.

a) What do they mean for you?

b) How would your career development benefit by mastering these behaviors?

c) Which ones would you priorize for immediate action?

Back to you Yogi:

“If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

Click here to download my complimentary e-book A Blueprint for Learning & Knowledge Creation: Staying Ahead of Your Competitors in a Turbulent World”.

Visit my e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

Take a moment to meet Jim.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2012 6:42 pm

    Thanks Susan. Yes, thinking laterally is an increasingly important skill to practice and master. Too much change going on out there!

  2. January 25, 2012 6:04 pm


    This is an excellent list, one which every leader should incorporate into his daily work. I especially like #5, think laterally. A leader who is able to develop creative solutions inspires hope and motivates his staff to see problems as opportunities not deadends.

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