Leadership – A Journey in Personal Growth and Change

When all is said and done there are two expectations of you as a leader:

  1. Create movement of the situation that has been thrust upon you, and
  2. Your behaviour while doing this

We expect President Zuma to move South Africa to a better place, and in broad strokes, we expect certain behaviours from him.

While it may be difficult to teach leaders how to create movement – some do it more naturally and others must and can be taught – we find that the great challenge is that of changing a leader’s behaviour. Organisations decide on a certain culture and then expect their leaders to live the culture, which often necessitates behavioural change.

However, it may just be like trying to bend straight a tree that has grown skew? Or perhaps human beings have an advantage over a tree – they can choose, have free agency and can use this to bring about changed behaviour.

If a functional expert is called in and asked for the first time to be the leader of a team of experts, what inherent belief does he/she have? Is it, “now I am going to be served”, or is it, “now I am going to serve”? These two fundamentally different beliefs will take the leader on two fundamentally different paths, with fundamentally different behaviours.

If for this young leader it is about being served, then somewhere on his journey, hopefully sooner rather than later, he will be confronted with feedback and requests – even eventual threats – to change behaviour fast.

Can he change and how?

Someone survives a serious heart attack, resulting in an abrupt life style change in order to stay alive, and improve quality of life. People give up smoking, in some cases they were smoking 60 or more cigarettes a day. It is not an easy thing to do.

In South Africa we see people change all the time. Not so long ago the idea of having a black boss was completely foreign. Now it is an everyday occurrence. Many people resist change as if their lives depended on it, and sometimes the older one becomes the more challenging it can be. But we live in a changing environment – more so than ever before in recorded history – on a technological, political and social level. This world we live in changes all the time! In fact, the change (or movement) is accelerating.

Let’s discuss some guiding principles that determine the ability to personally change and grow:

1. Impact of attitude on changing behaviour

The first principle is the significant role that attitude plays in changing behaviour and even changing the world, literally, or even just the world around us.

Not only does a positive attitude determine the degree to which we believe we can change our own behaviour, but it is also a crucial element in believing that others can and do change. In other words, as a leader you cannot really motivate behavioural change in others, if you do not have a deep-rooted conviction that you have changed, and that you are still in the process of changing your behaviour towards full potential. People easily sense our own lack of conviction and sincerity in preaching change in their lives.

2. The role of beliefs in changing behaviour

For people to willingly change behavioural patterns, they need to drill down to their most basic belief system. We are speaking of a person’s inner beliefs, both negative as well as positive. And this belief system regulates our deepest values – what we value most.

We believe this: “It is humanly impossible to perform above our core beliefs and real values”, and these beliefs and values determine our attitude. So our personal belief and value system determines our attitude and our behaviour patterns.

Example – your belief is a leader should be served. What would you value most if this is your belief? Excessive recognition? The more followers I have the more important I am – larger empire? Wanting more and better things than those around me?

It is obvious that when someone changes their beliefs their values shift and then they will adopt behaviours that match it – so they will change.

You change your belief somehow to realising you must serve. What will you start valuing? People for the right reasons; their personal needs and ambitions?

But to change, someone must confront their emotional as well as mental beliefs that stand in the way of their full potential

3. Behaviour change is process driven

Behavioural change only occurs when the person concerned goes through a process. Perhaps it looks something like this:

  1. The trigger of must/want to
  2. Confronting a deep rooted belief/s
  3. Embracing a new belief/s
  4. Matching relevant behaviour/s
  5. Practicing new behaviour/s
  6. Some recognition and reward
  7. Becomes habit.

One cannot get away from needing to undergo a process of facing negative as well as positive perceptions about yourself, that over time you have come to own (possess). This process will assist you to arrive at a deeper understanding of your own self-image – who you think and believe you are.

The process of change is not necessarily an easy journey and often may require the intervention of the ‘other factor’.

4. The “other” factor

More often than not there is somebody or something that intervenes to inspire behavioural change. This may be a leader, friend, or a family member. It may be a book, article, or an urgent situation – crises or a near death experience.

A great leader always strives to play a crucial role in bringing about a climate for behavioural change, which includes the following – one where his personal attitude is one of change; challenging personal and organisational beliefs through penetrating questions; an attitude of continuous improvement; recognition of success; open, honest and bold conversations; and so on.

The role of a facilitator is often required to trigger attitudinal and behavioural change, allowed by the environment and proactively, courageously triggered by the leader.

5. Leadership conversations

From extensive experience at Leadership Platform we find that one of the most powerful agents for proper behavioural change is expertly facilitated leadership conversation. Leadership conversations may be defined as conversations with the intent of moving the situation in a positive direction. Depending on the quality and authenticity of both topic as well as facilitator, leadership conversations can be powerful tools to motivate and change behaviour’

6. Nature’s lesson

So often nature is the greatest teacher. We know that all things consist of matter that consists of vibrant molecules and atoms. Even our own physical bodies are undergoing immense changes all the time and literally shedding millions of cells every day as it seeks to renew and heal itself. Movement is change. Plants ‘die’ and then come alive again in spring.

7. The attributes of love and sharing

Good mothers are probably the best possible examples of how love and sharing brings about attitudinal change in children (and even in husbands sometimes!) A caring and sharing attitude by leaders can have a great impact in the lives of others. Just think of it; nothing impacts more positively on our minds and hearts than somebody sharing with us that which is most important to them, because they care about us, or love us. This includes sharing of knowledge, compassion, respect, trust and high expectations of our performance.

Can adults change? For certain they can if the abovementioned factors are in place. It is a minority that refuse to change no matter what support they receive.

Answer the following questions for yourself:

  • Do you see a need for changing, improving as a leader?
  • Do you really believe that you can change and grow, no matter what your age?

Consider at this point what movement is expected of you as a leader and what behaviours?

For more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation, contact us on info@leadershipplatform.com




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022
Email: info@leadershipplatform.com

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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