How to lead through change with open leadership

Anyone can learn and use the qualities of open leadership to help their teams through times of transition.
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Change is hard. It often brings discomfort, anxiety, and confusion. Even as an Agile enthusiast, I sometimes feel I'm not welcoming change the way I should.

Change is often hard because the predecessor of change is chaos. Being in chaos is a natural part of the change process and an integral part of evolution. If chaos is handled poorly, it may result in inefficiencies, stress, demotivation, loss of direction, and poor performance. However, it also presents an opportunity to rethink, reorganize, refresh, reboot, experiment, and invent.

Open leadership is critical here. The Open Organization defines open leadership as a mindset and set of behaviors that anyone can learn and practice. Open leaders think and act in service to another person, group, team, or enterprise attempting to accomplish something together.

Open leaders acknowledge change, lead it with a generative-lean-agile mindset, and welcome it with intuition, focus, and enthusiasm.

Optimize to strengthen

Open leadership helps assess and understand the need for and the impact of change. It provides trust, transparency, and alignment with a vision. Open leaders simplify things by optimizing and prioritizing workflows.

In the path to open leadership, keep in mind that it takes time to develop a vision, alignment, and roadmap. Open leaders are optimistic and positive people. They understand their strengths and weaknesses. They make pragmatic decisions, listen to opposing points of view, and facilitate actions based on a set of values, processes, and culture. With team structure and governance, open leaders optimize processes to strengthen the vision.

Engage to leverage

Open leaders utilize feedback with constant adjustments in highly collaborative environments. Open leaders with clarity of conscience and willingness to speak up can make a difference. They believe in experimentation and early adaptation. They know very well that ideas spark innovation and further ignite potential. They understand that innovation is a product of creativity and an engine of change that results from feedback and failures. Transformation, revolution, realignment, and evolution are simply outcomes of this culture.

During change, open leaders invest in employee training and learning, communicate effectively, and provide everyone with opportunities and resources to unlock their potential and thrive. They build trust and demonstrate a high degree of personal integrity. They mold a group of individuals into a loyal and dedicated team.

Empower to excel

Contributing to the greater good is a deep and fundamental human need. Open leaders provide a vision for this where others do not. They bring the power of open culture and values by investing in skill building, taking responsibility, and expressing appreciation for the efforts of others.

The empathy of open leaders plays a critical role in encouraging others to embrace change. They remove obstacles and build community to provide a common understanding and safe environment for all. By decentralizing decision-making, open leaders give more authority to their employees. That empowerment provides the autonomy to excel further.

Give to receive

Whenever I say that one should celebrate not only success but also failures, I see eyebrows raised. I strongly believe leaders should celebrate failures—as long as they are taking note of learnings, validating those learnings, and implementing a plan of action to address those learnings. Failures, if celebrated rightly, lead to more wins.

Open leaders embrace the culture and characteristics of people, groups, and organizations. They allow people and teams to be themselves, and they understand that the action of giving and receiving gratefully has a powerful impact on partnership. It leads to sharing knowledge and caring about outcomes.

Finally, open leadership is infectious: Open leaders do not create followers, they create more leaders.

[ Learn how open leaders drive organizational agility. Download the eBook. ]

Ashish Lotangane
Ashish is working as Senior Product Manager in the Enterprise Data and Analytics at Red Hat. He is transformational leader, an agile enthusiast. He is passionate about solving customer problem and building self-motivated teams.

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