I am having trouble with a leader I know. Sometimes, he just refuses to change, even when the evidence is right before him. It is not that his attitude is impossible to live with. Over the years, I have grown used to his particular approach to hierarchical decision making. I am not meaning to be negative, but his style can be offensive and demotivating, to say the least.

contemplation

A few months ago, I came across a book entitled Immunity to Change by Kegan and Lahey. What an ironic title. Is not change what most people long for, at least to some degree? How often have you heard “If only I could change my career,” or “If only I could lose a few pounds this year,” or “If only [fill in the blank] was different”? Change seems elusive for many people; but an immunity to change, what could that be? The leader I know shares this immunity.

For instance, just the other day he said to me, “I don’t understand why people don’t just grow up and do the right thing. Why do people resist change?” I was shocked. Was he unaware of his own resistance to change?

So I gently commented, (I have learned to be gentle with him), that “Leadership is more than giving orders and expecting results. In fact, leadership is a collective and collaborative process that involves working with others across organizational lines.” I wanted to add, “We all have competing values that work against change in our lives, and it is worth exploring them.” Addressing that issue, however, will have to wait.

I am seeing a change in this leader, but it has taken some courage on my part to speak up and challenge his assumptions. Leadership really is an inside job. From the heart, to the head, and out to others. Godly leadership rests on mutual power and authority, not control and coercion. Somewhere he had lost touch with this fact.

I hope he remains open to change and committed to collaboration.

I am that growing leader.

Dennis Nichols

Lead Faculty, Master of Arts in Leadership