In the movie Matrix, Laurence Fishburne’s character, Morpheus, said to Neo (Keanu Reeves) – “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” This quote can be linked to the change process. We have all experienced the difficulty of walking the path. There is a big difference between knowing what to change in a personal or organizational context and successfully implementing that change.
In an organisational context, leaders need to sell the change initiative so that their subordinates can buy into it and implement it. Followers take their behavioural cues from their leaders and watch them to see if their change rhetoric matches their action. Any inconsistency between speech and leadership behaviour creates an atmosphere for mistrust. Both the leader and his change initiative suffer the impact of this inconsistency.
Leaders need to model the change they are selling. They need to walk the path if they want others to follow them. Most of the time, leaders can see the intended destination before their followers are aware of the race. They don’t have to have been to the Promised Land but they need to be able to lead the way to it. Leaders’ decisions and actions shape organizational culture, therefore, it is important they set the right example for their subordinates. Unless the leader is modelling the changed behaviour that he/she wants replicated in the organisation, things are not likely to change very much. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “what you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.”
Applying ‘The Pareto Law’ (80/20 rule) to any organizational change initiative means that there is a key 20% component that will determine the success or failure of that change initiative. Determining and communicating that 20% to the entire organisation is the leader’s responsibility. This is because if the unnecessary is not distinguished from the essential, the workforce will be overwhelmed by the irrelevant. People need specificity or they wouldn’t implement any desired change successfully.
Leaders need to ask themselves if they are living what they are selling? If there is a mismatch then they should either start selling something else or start living the change.