GUT CHECK: Do You Have It In You To Lead Transformational Change?

March 14, 2014 Vince Molinaro

Affordable Care Act - blog pic

The conventional wisdom about leaders is that they are ready for anything.

We have come to assume that come hell or high water, leaders dig deep and demonstrate resilience in the face of constant change or adversity.

But what if this is actually flawed logic? What if sometimes, leaders don’t have it in them to lead transformational change? Is it best to step down rather than step up in a half-hearted manner?

Right now the world facing leaders is more turbulent and unpredictable than ever before. Many industries are facing dramatic, wholesale shifts on an almost constant basis. In turn, these shifts are fundamentally changing what it means to be a leader.

This exact scenario is playing out in the US health care industry.

The American College of Healthcare Executives recently reported that the turnover rate for hospital CEOs spiked at more than 20 per cent in 2013. That is significantly higher than the average 14-18 per cent turnover rate tracked by the ACHE in recent years, and a cause for concern throughout the U.S. health care industry.

ACHE attributed the high number of turnovers to factors including upward mobility, hospital closures, consolidations, and normal attrition from retirement and downsizing.

However, ACHE CEO Deborah Bowen also believes the turmoil caused by the introduction of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as “ObamaCare” – was also a factor.

To put it more bluntly, Bowen believes some hospital executives “may not have the enthusiasm” to contend with a wide array of new and complex changes in their industry.

You can understand why some leaders lose their enthusiasm. After years of leading change, they become battle weary and fatigued. Just the thought of leading another round of transformation becomes daunting.

If this describes your current state of mind, it’s time to ask yourself some very tough and personal questions:

  1. Do I see these as the best of times or the worst of times to be a leader in my industry?
  2. Do I have the emotional energy and enthusiasm to lead in times of great change?
  3. Is it time for me to step aside and turn over the reins to others with more passion to lead change?

Whether you are a leader in health care, or another industry facing dramatic change, you need to pause and reflect on these questions because as I’ve written in my book The Leadership Contract, leadership is ultimately a decision.

Without some thoughtful self-examination, you run the risk of just going through the motions. You’ll become a lame leader or burn out altogether. That’s not good for you, nor the people you lead or your organization.

If you can’t go all in, fully committed to do what it takes to lead and succeed; then you owe it to yourself and to your organization to consider stepping aside. This decision doesn’t mean leaving but perhaps looking for another way to add value.

Sometimes, being a leader means being the first person to acknowledge that you’re not the best person for the job. It’s an important personal leadership decision.

If after your analysis you decide that you do have what it takes to lead and you’re still passionate about your industry, then you must dig deep and do everything you can to help your organization succeed.

Transformational change needs the full attention and commitment of every single leader at every single level of the organization. Full stop! Without it there’s very little chance of success.

So this week’s Gut Check question asks a powerful question:  Do you really have it in you to lead in times of transformational change?

About the Author

Vince Molinaro

Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.

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