In 1492 when Columbus set out across the Atlantic Ocean and landed in a new world, his voyage changed the perspective and literally broadened the horizon of mankind. Almost overnight, trade routes had to be redrawn, power began shifting from the Mediterranean to the countries on the Atlantic seaboard closest to the Americas, and great riches began flowing onto the continent from places with unusual sounding names that nobody had ever heard of them before Columbus.
In many ways, the corporate leader with a new vision is like Columbus and the the other explorers who came after him - people who change perceptions. But it isn't easy. For years, no one was willing to finance Columbus's voyages; and it was only his sheer persistence that finally enabled him to transform his vision into reality.
Today's corporate leaders face similar problems when they try to implement their vision of change. Change forces employees to shift paradigm because it upsets the tried and true ways of doing things; it produces anxiety and stress by requiring employees to learn new skills and deal with unfamiliar situations; it also threatens many employees by upsetting traditional power relationships and lines of authority. is it any wonder, then, that as a leader announces a new change initiative, managers smile and nod their heads approvingly, only to return to their offices and sit on their hands? Is it also any wonder that so many change efforts fail?
Today, given the increased complexity and uncertainty of operating in the global information age, all of us in the field of management are looking for principles that can guide organizations and enable them to be successful in the future. Today's leaders face incredible problems. Staying abreast of the accelerating rate of change, motivating employees, obtaining reliable information, competing internationally - these are only a few of the balls that managers must keep in the air as they try to run organizations. The rate of technological change alone exceeds anything that seemed possible only a few years ago. Employees are more highly educated than ever before and demand greater empowerment from their bosses. Time is a far more valuable commodity - time to market and just-in-time inventory. The global economy affects major business decisions, from cutting health care costs to opening new factories, Finally customers have much higher expectations from the products and services they purchase; thus, no cop many can afford to overlook quality. Faced with such a variety of complex issues, organizations often look for one-dimensional solutions. Everything from TQM to re engineering becomes "the answer."
Human beings lie at the center of every change effort, and throughout history many have put up strong resistance to it. Leaders must learn to mitigate the impact of natural human traits - suspicion, stubbornness, and anxiety - that undermine change., while capitalizing on those positive human qualities - trust, idealism, and dedication - that make change work. No change will succeed without skillful leadership. But leadership involves more than a list of traits and attributes. Leadership of the change effort is a clearly defined process that includes information gathering, self-knowledge, identifying the informal leaders inside an organization, developing a realistic set of ideals, finding the leverage points to induce change, understanding human nature, using power effectively designing a successful social process, and creating identification with the change effort among rand-and-file employees.