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‘Leadership Rituals’ In A Disrupted World

‘Leadership Rituals’ in a Disrupted World

What is wrong with a CEO who rates himself a ‘3’ when being asked to rate his change-readiness on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being ‘Enjoy Continuous Change’)? Shouldn’t he be a role-model for change and transformation?

The question was part of an exercise we did with an extended leadership team of a multinational manufacturer here in Asia. They are facing massive changes due to digitalization and re-organization, and most of the team members rated themselves rather 4 or 5 during this open exercise. Only Paul, the CEO and a few others were in the lower area and his team seemed to be surprised. As I was facilitating the whole process, I asked him if it was ok for him to help us understand, what ‘3’ in terms of change-readiness means for him. Here is what he answered:

“Michael, I love change and I am happy, if we face constant changes and challenges that help us to improve. But over the years I learned about myself that I need at least some personal anchors or only simple routines, that do not change. These are things I can trust that will be there and give me a sense of stability in an ever-changing world. That gives me the energy and confidence to deal with any change at hand!”

And he gave us examples: The Saturday morning ritual with his wife, having a 1,5 hours morning walk at the beach nearby, completed by having a delicious breakfast at their favourite spot together. Every Saturday he said, after doing this, he feels re-balanced and stronger.

He also shared a work-related example: Every morning he comes to the office half an hour earlier, he is getting a coffee, sits at his desk, not turning on any electronic device, and just taking an empty piece of A4 paper and draws a mindmap of the things he wants to get done, taking some notes and ideas, reflecting and strategizing.

These types of routines he said prevail since years, even if sometimes interrupted by business travel or other events – he always gets back to those ‘core rituals’ quickly. They center him, give him purpose and and get him ready for all the changes and challenges to come

Change Leadership with Common Sense

I thought about all the change-management workshops I attended and led in the past. With leaders and employees facing constant transformations, being told that everything has to change in order to be more lean, effective or agile. Many of them felt conflicted about continuous change, but they would not say that out loud. And here was a CEO who brought some common sense into the conversation. I could see that the rest of the team immediately felt inspired and the following discussion about change was one of the best and richest I have experienced.

Leaders like Paul are needed to remind us about ‘Leadership by Common Sense’ in a world of constant changes. Of course, we as leaders have to continue doing the right things during the process of transformation (communicate regularly, help understand the why, what, how etc.). But we should not forget to give people (and ourselves) the right perspective to deal effectively with the impact of continuous changes.


Making Sense of Experience

This interaction took place a couple of months ago. When my own company started to go through some significant changes, it got me thinking about my own ‘core rituals’. I realized that I had some, but not enough to give me enough energy to deal effectively with the changes. So, I extended my list:

  • I copied the ’empty A4 morning routine’ from Paul, which helps me to strategize more focused and to reflect before I act.
  • Before I had an unregular exercise regiment. I changed it to every workday half an hour exercise ritual in the morning, without excuse. This was a major change, as it provided a boost of energy and strengths to deal with some tough change decisions.
  • And every Saturday morning I have a bike hike with my younger son followed by breakfast with the whole family at our favourite place. This became a strong emotional core ritual for me.

The overall outcome for me? Compared with earlier change situations I can see and feel the difference. More energy, more measured responses and less pressure in my private life.

What about you? What gives you the needed stability in the middle of all the changes in your environment? Let me know about core rituals that you are practicing or want to start practicing?

Michael Weichert, Director, Asian Leadership Centre




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