Leadership Blog

New Thinking on Leading Change

Stellar Leadership has incorporated new thinking on how leaders can make organisational change succeed into its change management programmes.

During the last two decades, scientists have gained a new, far more accurate view of human nature and behaviour change because of the integration of psychology (the study of the human mind and human behaviour) and neuroscience (the study of the anatomy and physiology of the brain).

The implications of this new research are particularly relevant for organisational leaders. It is now clear that human behaviour in the workplace doesn’t work the way many executives think it does. That in turn helps explain why many leadership efforts and organisational change initiatives fail.

Leaders who understand the recent breakthroughs in cognitive science can lead and influence change that takes into account the physiological nature of the brain, and the ways in which it predisposes people to resist some forms of leadership and accept others. This new thinking would have been considered counterintuitive or downright wrong only a few years ago.

The lessons from the research are:

  • Change is personal pain. Organisational change is unexpectedly difficult because it provokes sensations of physiological discomfort and so people resist it.
  • Traditional approaches often fail. Change efforts based on incentive and threat (the carrot and the stick) rarely succeed in the long run.
  • Persuasion is overrated. In practice, the conventional approach of connection and persuasion doesn’t sufficiently engage people.
  • Get people’s attention. The act of paying attention creates chemical and physical changes in the brain that starts a process of creating new patterns and habits.
  • Emotionally engage people. The more you can appeal to personal insight and involvement the more likely people are to learn and retain the learning.
  • Repetition and practice works. Repeated, purposeful, and individually focused attention can lead to long-lasting personal transformation.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson
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