“The most powerful formula for creating long-term, high-impact organisational change”

Change leader, change thyself

This article in the McKinsey Quarterly discusses how anyone who wants to lead an organisation in new directions must learn to look inward as well as outward.

Leo Tolstoy famously wrote that:

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

And yet, after years of working in leadership and cultural transformation, the authors are convinced that:

“… organizational change is inseparable from individual change. Simply put, change efforts often falter because individuals overlook the need to make fundamental changes in themselves…
Organizations don’t change — people do.

To create lasting organisational impact, the authors say, it is necessary to:

“Look both inward and outwards… Integration of looking both inward and outward is the most powerful formula we know for creating long-term, high-impact organizational change.”

So far so good. But unfortunately, I then find their recommendations for how to make this inner change then happen overly-analytical, slow, and short on practical implementation.

The authors recommend developing ‘profile awareness’ and ‘state awareness’ and then offer four ways this can become part of organisational change. But, to my mind, these recommendations do not join up. What is needed in a time of change, surely, is not more analysis but inspiration, and a focus on getting to results.

This is the approach taken by The Churning, Inner Leadership. Start by increasing the self-awareness of every leader and individual in the business. Help them to connect more deeply with who they are and what matters most to them, which then makes them more solid, sure, and confident of their priorities. Then give them the tools to see any situation more clearly and find more opportunities to move forward. Teach them their own purpose and their values and enable them to find the best way forward in any situation — then describe it in ways that inspire them and other people to want to make it happen.

This is Inner Leadership. This is creating people-led organisations. This is creating organisations and people that know not just how to survive change but how to use change to become stronger.

It is true to say that organisations don’t change, people do. So there is no doubt that inner leadership is the new frontier: if you want to change and revitalise your organisation, you need to start by learning to change and revitalise yourself.

But the McKinsey approach seems to be focused on teaching people to become more like McKinsey consultants, whereas the Inner Leadership approach is about enabling leaders and people to become more capable versions of themselves.

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