If you’ve ever attempted to lead people through a process of change you have likely already encountered a simple, but profound truth.
Short term change is quite easy; just work on their behaviors.
But for lasting change you need to roll up your leadership sleeves. You’ll need to do the hard work of leading through values.
I discovered this in a powerful way several years ago in Canada, when I served on the board of directors for a national faith-based organization.
The organization’s purpose was to publicize the policy platforms of politicians seeking election or re-election. But our angle was always to focus on policies that would be of particular interest to those in the Christian faith community.
Over time I began to grow increasingly uncomfortable with our purposes and strategies. It was clear that we were able to exert considerable political influence based on whether or not these politician’s policies happened to align with what might be expected from a faith perspective.
I began to perceive that implicit in our message was an expectation that politicians, regardless of their personal faith or lack of faith, should support policies which reflect a Christian faith perspective.
The question I began to wrestle with is, “Why should these politicians be expected to support Christian-friendly policies when these candidates may or may not share my own particular faith?”
In other words, we were attempting to lead change merely by influencing behaviors. But I saw that this change wouldn’t last. If we wanted to see true lasting change we would need to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of influencing their values first.
As a result of this struggle I ended up leaving this organization, but I took with me several key leadership understandings that have stood me well to this day.
- Leaders, by definition, seek to influence change in how people behave.
- These behaviors always flow out of “who you are”; your values.
- To influence values will take longer, but the results will be behavior changes that will stand the test of time.
It all comes down to understanding the kind of change you want to see.
Short-term change? You can get away with the relatively simple leadership task of influencing behaviors.
But for lasting change you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and do the hard, but rewarding work, of influencing values.
In the end it will all be worth it.