We all tend to fit one of seven types of change leader, each of which indicates a different mix of leading with Head, Heart, or Hands. The fifth change leader type is the Driver, who’s strong in both Head and Hands.
In the classic business book In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. list eight principles of excellent, innovative companies. The first is “A bias for action, for getting on with it.” Drivers have that nailed!
But a key challenge for Drivers is to, as John Kotter puts it in his book The Heart of Change, “increase the sense of urgency” in others. Kotter writes that leaders need to “raise a feeling of urgency so that people start telling each other ‘we must do something’ about the problems and opportunities.” Kotter recommends “reducing the complacency, fear, and anger that prevent change from starting.” To do so, Drivers must consider the emotions of others. Particularly for technically oriented Drivers, it can be useful to remember to see emotions—both your own and others’—as data. To collect this data, Drivers benefit from “managing by walking around,” soliciting information about what people are thinking and feeling. Such data often proves invaluable in leading change.
It’s been said that the longest journey a person must take is the eighteen inches from his head to his heart, and that can be particularly true for Drivers. In Beyond the Wall of Resistance, Rick Maurer lists “failing to appreciate the power of fear” as one of the top mistakes leaders make that results in resistance to change. He goes on to say that “when fears are triggered, humans’ ability to take in information goes down. In other words, people can’t hear what we’re talking about even if they try.” When Drivers don’t balance their forceful style and sense of urgency with people smarts, they can scare people into ineffectiveness.
Because of their natural bias for fast, effective action, many Drivers see involving people and listening to their fears as an impediment, a slowing down. And yet, when they can overcome this reluctance, they discover that better ideas emerge and that people work hard in support of the leader and the change.
I explore more what this means and go through some workplace examples in Change Intelligence.
Next up, we’ll introduce the Facilitator.