Embracing Change For Leadership Success
Leaders must view change not as an obstacle but as an opportunity to seek new perspectives, develop skills, and grow through failures.
WRITTEN BY: ADAM DANYAL
Change is hard. As leaders, we often resist shaking things up, afraid of rocking the boat. But real leadership means leaning into change, not running from it.
Like Sam Altman, ex-OpenAI CEO, we must view change as an opportunity, not an obstacle. When his board abruptly fired him as CEO, Altman handled it with poise. He didn’t lash out or become defensive. Instead, he accepted the change with optimism. As he put it, “I loved my time at OpenAI. It was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit.”
What a powerful mindset! He embraced change as a path to growth.
As leaders, this agility is essential. Change keeps us sharp and innovative. It pushes us outside our comfort zones into new frontiers of learning. Like a marathon runner pushing through the wall, change is how we improve our personal best.
Here are three ways to embrace change as a catalyst for leadership growth:
1. Seek Diverse Perspectives
Expose yourself to views outside your echo chamber. Engage people with different life experiences and cultural lenses. Immerse in unfamiliar industries and environments. Absorb new paradigms that challenge your assumptions. This flexibility keeps your mind open and ideas fresh.
2. Continually Improve Your Skills
Make learning your lifelong passion. Set aside time each week for targeted professional development like books, courses and mentorship. Stay curious about new methodologies in your field. Take a hard look at your skill gaps and create a plan to address them. As tennis great Billie Jean King said, “Champions keep playing until they get it right.” Lead through continuous improvement.
3. Welcome Failure
See setbacks as data, not disasters. Analyze failures logically to extract the lessons within them. Don’t let ego get in the way of acknowledging your mistakes. Each stumble makes you wiser. Remind yourself that failure is intrinsic to growth. The most successful people embrace it as part of their journey. See each failure as an opportunity to get back up stronger.
Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. As leaders in times of constant change, our job is to meet each new challenge with open arms. Developing the agility to pivot, stretch and keep improving makes all the difference. Lead through change boldly and watch how your leadership soars.
From our Leadership Bookshelf:
WRITTEN BY: JULIA DANYAL
Leadership is often about leading through change. As Doris Kearns Goodwin illustrates in "Leadership: In Turbulent Times", in her biographies of presidents like Lincoln, FDR, and LBJ, great leaders view change not as an obstacle but an opportunity. They remain flexible and open-minded by engaging diverse perspectives. They make continuous learning a priority, developing skills to navigate new challenges. And they persist through setbacks, analyzing failures for insights to improve.
Goodwin provides several examples of how iconic leaders embraced change:
Abraham Lincoln assembled a "team of rivals" in his cabinet to get the full spectrum of viewpoints. This helped him stay agile and empathetic as he led the country through enormous change.
FDR demonstrated lifelong curiosity. Despite his disability, he constantly sought new knowledge to shepherd America through the Depression and WWII with creative solutions.
LBJ overcame early failed Senate bids to eventually pass landmark civil rights legislation. He learned from mistakes and saw political defeats as stepping stones.
As Goodwin illustrates, great leaders don't fear change - they lean into it. They surround themselves with diverse views, never stop learning, and let failures fuel growth. Meeting change with resilience and flexibility is the hallmark of iconic leadership.