I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard someone complain that change is not happening in their organization because leaders are not saying or doing the right things. In fact, the most commonly cited reason for failure of organizational change is ineffective or insufficient sponsorship.
But leaders are people before they are sponsors. Just as we need to help people in the organization get ready, willing, and able to behave differently, we need to help leaders make that same transition. We can’t expect leaders to magically commit to a new set of ideas and behaviors before they themselves have fully thought through what it means for them, how they will be valued under the new environment, how supported they will be, and more.
Sometimes when people see leaders taking time to understand what is required and how they will fit in, they assume with snide cynicism that the leader is being “political.” But evaluating their own fate does not make a leader “political”… it makes them human. (Don’t get me wrong, there are overly ambitious leaders out there… but they are the exception, not the rule.)
Next time you want to blame the failure of a change on leaders, think about how you can help leaders make the transition to new behaviors and ideas. If we accept that leaders are people first, we can better position them to be sponsors.