Making a Fundamental Leadership Change


If you’ve ever attended an industry conference and heard a motivational speaker, then you know how those speakers have a certain way of getting us inspired.

They’re dynamic — they get us focused and they get us excited. We walk out saying, “That’s fantastic! I’m going to change going forward!” But then back at the office, within 48 hours, the tyranny of the urgent takes over, and we’re right back where we were before.

Something similar happens when we read a business book or listen to an inspiring podcast. We might be motivated to change, but there’s great difficulty in implementing fundamental change; it takes more than 45 minutes of attention.

Change must be implemented over a long period of time so that it can become part of who you naturally are.

Fundamental vs. Tactical Change in Leadership

For leaders, not all change is fundamental or impacts the core of who a leader is. Sometimes tactical change is called for. This occurs when a leader decides that leading or behaving in a slightly different manner will be more effective in this situation and at this time. This is the kind of change a leader enters into consciously, saying, “In this instance, I will change my approach or my leadership style to accomplish this goal.”

Tactical change is intentional, short-term and situational.

Fundamental change, however, is a shift in perspective. It’s a shift in how a leader looks at leadership and their role as a leader. This is the type of change that impacts the way a leader leads going forward.

There are a few common reasons that leaders might consider a fundamental change:

  • They’re not getting the results they’re seeking
  • They do not feel effective
  • They don’t sense that their team is developing in the ways they’d hoped
  • There’s friction in their relationships with their spouse, children or extended family
  • They sense that they’re being reactive rather than proactive in their leadership style

Helpful Principles for Implementing Fundamental Change

Behavioral change is heavy lifting. It’s difficult, it takes time and it takes repetition. It also requires the right mindset. When working with my clients, they typically go through a process of exploring, examining and evaluating how they lead, what worked, what didn’t work, etc.

Here are a few key principles of that process:

  1. In order for leaders to identify the right type of fundamental change that’s required, they must accept the belief that self-leadership always precedes team leadership.

  2. They must recognize that leaders do not “turn on” their work life at 7 a.m. when they arrive in the office and then turn it off when they leave to go home. As a leader, work and home life are inextricably intertwined, each affecting the other.

  3. They must accept that change can be painful.

  4. They must recognize that change involves loss at some level.

When my clients have an “ah-ha” moment that inspires them to consider fundamental change, it’s important that we’re clear about the difficulties in adapting long-term change. This is usually when I remind them of what Eric Shinseki is fond of saying, “If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.”

As an executive coach, my role is to walk alongside leaders through all sorts of change, including the kind that introduces uncomfortable and difficult internal transformation. Because we operate in a confidential relationship, it creates a space for leaders to evaluate and adopt behavioral changes in a non-punitive environment. The change is entirely their choice. I serve as a guide, someone who holds up a mirror to their personal and professional goals and helps them stay on track.

Resources for Exploring Fundamental Change

If you find yourself in a place where things seem to keep falling short of your expectations, you’re not alone. Operating from a place of leadership is for those who have the long-term vision and long-term stamina to see those visions through. If you’re sensing that perhaps there’s a fundamental change you need to explore, consider downloading our Life Plan Tool. Even if your strife is coming from a place inside your business, I believe this is the best starting place to refocus on the core values that affect you as a leader — in work and in life.


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