Blogference 2008: Lead Change by Bridging The Gap

May 11, 2008 — 4 Comments

Yes, you’re at the right place. Welcome to the Blogference on Leading Change.

Each day several of us will be posting entries on some aspect of leading change. You’re invited to read, reflect, and respond. I hope this will serve as a great exposure to other thinkers and their ideas about living well and leading well.

On this blog we’ll explore this idea: Lead Change by Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap.

What is the Knowing-Doing Gap? It’s a very dangerous place. If left unexplored it can grow into a black hole of fear, pride, and traditionalism. Worst of all – nothing grows there. Jesus described the gap this way:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. (Matthew 23:1-7, ESV)

What does this have to do with leading change in an organization? Well, everything. An organization is simply a group of people who work together toward a common end. It can be as small as a family or as large as a sprawling multinational corporation. As members of an organization, it’s easy for us to wait for someone else to change first. We say things like “If only the leadership – they – would do this or change that, then I could….” This type of thinking creates passivity. Desirable change occurs each time a person in that organization chooses to act in accordance with what they know is right.

Leadership is initiative. Leadership is character in action.

This concept is captured well in some recent ads by Liberty Mutual.

The first requirement for leading change is to model the Way. Jesus, without question the greatest organizational change agent who ever lived, knew that. So it comes as no surprise that James Kouzes and Barry Posner, co-authors of The Leadership Challenge, list Modeling The Way as the starting point for exemplary leadership. (BTW: If you don’t have that book on your shelf, you’re missing out on one of the best books published in the last 1,000 years on leadership.)

Lesson for change agents: Start here. Lead change by modeling the way.

4 responses to Blogference 2008: Lead Change by Bridging The Gap

  1. Thanks Ken! Good thoughts. I appreciate the bit from Matthew 23. Sometimes I find myself in that pharisaical position – As an RD, removed from campus, it’s easy to lead discussion on evangelism for example, but it’s been rare for me to actually share my faith. There is a cultural change (in regards to evangelism) here in the PSW that I believe needs to happen and we can’t just lead with words on this or else we’re packaging huge expectations on our staff without entering into the work ourselves.

    I haven’t read “The Leadership Challenge” yet, but the best leadership book in a millennia? Wow! Just curious, which leadership book 1001 years ago was better? That’s probably worth a read too!

  2. Hey Ken, I too appreciate your thoughts on “Bridging the Gap.” In recent years, I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo that doesn’t lead to individual, social, and cultural transformations. And yeah, it was (and still is!) easy to gripe about my leaders who are not doing certain things so that I could do certain things, etc. etc. I learned the hard way that it has to start with me. Am I walking the changes and future I desire? Or am I just all talk?

    And Mike, thanks for your honesty re: finding yourself in “that pharisaical position.” It resonates w/ me too. Looking back, I feel sorry for my ARD who had to listen to all my ramblings and frustrations, haha. But, I appreciate SO MUCH her reflective and secure leadership that prompted her to affirm me, and tell me to “just do it” and “lead up.” What resulted from her encouragement was our team and 5-10 students starting to befriend the homeless, feeding the beggars on the streets, and visiting the leukemia-sick kids and their broken-hearted parents at the local hospital. And from watching us, people of good faith and/or good will started joining in – including my ARD, who later with other RT staff initiated their own Christmas project of Gospel proclamation and compassionate deeds to the “least of these.”

    I’m discovering that as each of us start to live out how God would have us change our world, we become salt-and-light examples, natural role models, change agents who have substance and power.

  3. Ken, I don’t think we have met, but stoked to be commenting here.

    Jesus words in Matthew (and yours!) pierce my heart. It makes me think of my own hypocrisy of not practicing what I preach. I am humbled already.

    Do you think we can challenge people to come along with us as we learn and fail though? I think about this, because sometimes I speak on Scripture where I go, “Crap, I am not doing that well, but I gotta talk about this text as I am using it.” So can I say, “Here is what this says, and God has convicted me that I am not living this well.” And then on Jesus’ authority, not my own, I exhort others and myself to live that way.

    What do you think?

  4. mike, wix, and dj: I appreciate the humility in all of your comments. Mike, that “other leadership book” would be the Bible. As you know there are so many stories of raw leadership courage, faith, failure, turnarounds, M&As and incredible victories. Makes the business section of Barnes & Noble pale in comparison.

    wix, I love hearing from your experience in leading change by humbly leading up. It takes courage to follow well, to speak the truth in love while walking shoulder-to-shoulder in the mission.

    dj, what do I think? I think you’re onto the secret of Christ-centered biblical teaching. To be able to teach from a place of learning and following the Master, rather than only teaching what we’ve mastered, is a welcoming place to any audience. Especially non-believers and new followers. That’s a place I’m continually trying to learn how to speak and teach from. It’s authentic, honest and powerful.

    Thanks for the conversation. kc

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