"The land of excellence is safely guarded from unworthy intruders. At the gates stand two fearsome sentries – risk and learning. The keys to entrance are faith and courage."
I did not get what I expected from Deep Change. “Discovering the Leader Within” sounds like a psychologized, self-absorbed look at leadership. Deep Change isn’t that.
Deep Change is the acknowledgement that nothing changes unless people change. People don’t change unless a person, namely the leader, changes. An organization in need of change is an organized collection of people, each of whom need to change.
As I look back on my career, I have had a number of failures and a few successes. All the success had one thing in common – the primary leader embodied the change. Our church started a recovery program. I couldn’t have led it. I didn’t change. But the primary leader went down to neighborhood apartments that housed former inmates every Sunday morning and invited them to class. And, to everyone’s surprise, they came. Some of them stayed sober. They got jobs. They were reunited with their families. Because someone embraced the change first. Because one man experienced deep personal change our entire church experienced corporate change!
Deep personal change precedes corporate change
"Deep change differs from incremental change in that it requires new ways of thinking and behaving. It is change that is major in scope, discontinuous with the past and generally irreversible."
It would be a lie to say I enjoyed this book. It was a fine read, but the author called me out. He described how most people, like me, want to find small steps they can make that will result in major change. It doesn’t happen. It is like trying to cross a stream in three jumps. Unless you make the commitment to jump-all-the-way, you won’t change sides of the river.
The nature of every change is inevitably personal. It is so obvious, yet missed so often. An organization of any kind—a family, church, business—doesn’t change if everyone keeps doing the same things. You do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always got!
So someone must alter their behavior. The person who changes first is the leader. A leader is not someone who stands at a distance and tries to enforce changes on other people’s behavior. That isn’t the way change happens.
The personal demand on the leader is the essence of deep change.
Improvement requires change
"Shifting from the current equilibrium or normal level of performance to a higher level means that a transformation must occur. At least one person must recognize that more is possible."
As I mentioned above, nothing changes unless someone changes. We don’t wish ourselves into higher effectiveness unless we do something differently and change. We must become someone who thinks and acts differently than the ineffective person we were before.
The author identifies four breakdowns in personal change. Early in the change process, illusions lead us astray. We become idealistic. We expect things that aren’t realistic. Shortly thereafter we get derailed by panic. We think, this will never work. Then, on the verge of victory, a leader can experience exhaustion and derail the change. Finally, as soon as some of the change becomes routine, we can relax into stagnation.
At each one of those points in the process, a leader must change.
Competence can close down change
"An individual contributor is a person whose technical competence is judged in terms of singular rather than interdependent action. The more unique the individual output, the more powerful the person becomes."
Citing baseball legend Ted Williams, the author claims, “Williams gets to be Williams because everyone wants to be who he is. Secretly, everyone wants to be so good at his job that he can tell his boss to go to hell and his boss has to take it. Everyone wants to be Ted Williams.”
Oddly, one of the major barriers to change is someone who does their job well, so well the rest of the organization couldn’t get by without them. Because of this they have an inordinate amount of power and the organization can’t make the changes they need to make. One has only to look at the miserable 2014-2015 record of Los Angeles Lakers and their relationship with Kobe Bryant for a contemporary illustration of this problem.
Rather than evaluating people by their proficiency at job-related tasks, the author insists their job definition must include relating to other people. The effect each of us has on other people shapes our success or lack of it. Other relationships cannot be separated from bringing change.
I mentioned the author made me uneasy. He called me out for expecting other people to change without changing myself. This should make any leader nervous. A leader must be captured by the change they champion so that they are willing to pay the price.
The recent racial tensions in the United States remind me of the beauty of the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. who not only articulated his dream, but who sat in a Birmingham jail, who committed himself to nonviolence. “I Have A Dream” would have stood alone as a great speech, but it catalyzed change because the leaders of the movement embodied the change themselves. They experienced Deep Change.
As a pastor, I am weekly calling people to change their lives. Yet, it is the height of hypocrisy to ask them to make changes I am unwilling to make. That is why this book was hard for me to read.
Every New Year’s resolution fails because people are unwilling to make the deep change necessary to follow through. There is no time like the present to think about the deep changes necessary to become the person you want to be, to have the family you want to have, to succeed at work like you want to.
What deep change do you need to make to make the progress you desire?