Real Leaders Don't Accept Change: They Initiate It!

The old leadership philosophy was that if you wanted to be a great leader, you had to accept change. The new leadership philosophy is that great leaders don't accept change — they initiate it!Let me clarify: Great leaders don't initiate change for the...


The old leadership philosophy was that if you wanted to be a great leader, you had to accept change. The new leadership philosophy is that great leaders don't accept change — they initiate it! Let me clarify: Great leaders don't initiate change for the sake of change. They initiate change for the...


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The old leadership philosophy was that if you wanted to be a great leader, you had to accept change. The new leadership philosophy is that great leaders don't accept change — they initiate it!

Let me clarify: Great leaders don't initiate change for the sake of change. They initiate change for the sake of improvement. Not all change is good, and running through your department like a bull in a china shop for the sake of creating change is not the kind of change I am advocating. I am suggesting change that increases morale and generates improvement.

A probationary firefighter asked a seasoned veteran about a particular process, "Why do we do it this way?" The veteran snapped back, "Because that's the way we have always done it!"

While some of the younger generations may appear to be asking this question simply to challenge authority or irritate the older generations, there are times when it is absolutely a legitimate question. The best answer is an explanation of why things are done the way they are done, followed with a question: "Why? Do you have a suggestion for improvement?" If you can't ask that question, you are not engaging in effective leadership, management or innovation. If you are one of those people who thinks only management can come up with the best ideas and processes, you are missing the boat. Keeping things the way they are simply because "that's the way we have always done it" is a poor excuse for stifling growth.

It reminds me of the young wife who is getting ready to make her first Thanksgiving dinner. She puts the turkey in the oven and then starts preparing the ham. She sets it on the cutting board and chops both ends off the ham, puts it in the pan and then covers it with foil. Her husband is watching curiously and he asks, "Why do you cut both ends off the ham?"

She stands silent and thinks for a minute. "I don't know. That's just the way my mom always did it. Let me call her and ask her why."

The young wife gets her mother on the phone. "Mom, why do we cut both ends off the ham before we cook it?" Her mother thinks for a second, chuckles and replies, "I really don't know. That's just the way your grandmother always did it. Let me call her and ask."

So she gets her mother on the phone. "Mom, why do we cut both ends off the ham at Thanksgiving?" Her mother shot back, "I don't know why you do it — I did it because my pan was too small to fit a ham!"

We see generation after generation doing things a certain way and they have no idea why — "That's just the way we've always done it!" We develop ingrained patterns for doing things and forget to ask why we are doing them.

Researchers put five monkeys in a habitat. A banana hangs from a string at the top of a small staircase. One of the monkeys spots the banana and heads up the stairs for it. Just as the monkey is about to reach the top of the stairs, the researchers spray ice-cold water on all five monkeys. The monkey on the staircase backs away from the banana and shakes off the cold water.

The researchers then replace one of the monkeys with a new monkey. He spots the banana and starts to go for it. As he begins to climb the stairs, all of the other monkeys grab him and drag him to the bottom of the stairs. Then they replace another monkey with a new monkey who has never been sprayed with water. This new monkey sees the banana and heads up the stairs. All of the monkeys grab him, thump on him, and pull him to the bottom of the stairs, including the new monkey who has never been sprayed with water.

The researchers repeat this process. Each time, the new monkey goes for the banana and the other monkeys intervene and prevent the process. This is repeated until all five monkeys have been replaced. Not one of those monkeys will ever try to get that banana again, and they have absolutely no idea why, because none of them was ever sprayed with ice-cold water. All they know is, "That's just the way it's always been."

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