Great leaders are not made by record sales or size of companies they lead or even lifetime-complicated mergers & acquisitions. They are made by successful transformation achievements that have got PEOPLE in the center of the effort and, of course, the result. Great Leaders are first of all Change Leaders!

To identify whether someone is a Change Leader consider the following:

A Change Leader is a REAL Leader. She is not just someone possessing a high-level ranking in an organization; this does not necessarily presuppose leadership skills. The fact that often high lever managers (General Managers, CEOs etc.) are called “Leaders” is a misunderstanding that has to end. It is widely known that such positions are not always given to those having leadership skills. If this was so, more than half of them should not be in the positions they currently are! Why this actually happens is another long story… However, the answer to the question “can a high-level manager get trained to become a leader” is yes! Yes, they can, IF they leave arrogance of authority behind and understand that they are not “there” yet.

A Change Leader attains two major skills: a. potential to visualize, propose and fight for significant changes in an organization and b. capability to convince people to follow her and fight by her side in the direction she has indicated.

So, after this crucial clarification, let’s shortly go through the 7 major characteristics of a Change Leader:

  1. Self-awareness. Getting to know oneself is a never ending process that needs a lot of effort and dedication. None can change an organization unless, first, she changes her own self.
  2. Vision. Change Leaders dream with open ears and bright eyes. They can see the outcome even before it can be thoroughly documented. Their dream shows them the direction to choose, gives them the strength to go on when conditions are unfavorable, heats up their hearts and minds every day.
  3. Boldness & Resilience. Change decisions are tough decisions. They take people and organizations out of their comfort zone. One has to be brave enough to take such decisions, which in some cases might create conflicts and even negative reactions. A Change Leader knows how to handle those, too.
  4. Integrity. Absolutely necessary. Sincerity and reliability will determine the final outcome of the endeavor. Consequences of change have to be explicitly elucidated toward all directions. Vision has to be clearly communicated and practically supported by the Change Leader. There is no room for personal benefits against the common good.
  5. Effort. No big change can be achieved without persistently hard work. Change Leaders are there to give the example. They have to “walk the talk” constantly.
  6. Humility. The lack of it entails serious danger for a vision to be achieved. Change Leaders have to realize that they’re just the forefront force of a solid, common exertion not the emperor giving orders and keeping herself safe in the “shelter”. They have to be proven as “one of them” (for their people) in order to be believed, followed and supported.
  7. People in the Centre. Systems, processes, structures, technologies, numbers, results are there to hold up people’s well-being. If life does not become better for them, then the change has no real essence, and, most of the times, the effort will soon fall apart.

On the whole, the role of a Change Leader assumes people orientation and magnitude, inspirational stance and humility, authentic approach and decisiveness.

Change Leaders are “captains of waves”, soldiers of tricky battles, chefs of innovative recipes. Their behavior consists of 14 distinguishable attitudes:

  1. They are visionary and bold
  2. They try hard and they admit failure
  3. They are transparent and open to criticism
  4. They listen more and talk less
  5. They think deep and they question themselves all the time
  6. They inspire people around them
  7. They never experience the fake feeling of ultimate success
  8. They improve and improve every day
  9. Most of all, they help other people get improved
  10. They share information and resources and feel contented in doing so
  11. They disclose advice with modesty
  12. They are exposed with sincerity and braveness
  13. They are forward looking people with a high sense of responsibility and with a tendency to risk
  14. They are knowledgeable on one hand and trusting their intuition on the other

This extremely rare combination makes them unique and their contribution to the world invaluable. At the same time and for exactly the same reason – of rarity – they might also be loathed or even attacked, in addition because they bring change without fear and with resonance.

In any case, real change has never been an easy task. Nor has it been widely embraced. Change Leaders do know that and they are patient and persistent. Moreover, they are tough but (trying to be) fair. They might be brainy or just clever, but they absolutely hold emotional intelligence and compassion, even at moments of severe loneliness in (tough) decision(s) making process.

They are simultaneously surrounded by authentic followers and by mere flatterers who are just trying not to lose ground. Change Leaders know how to distinguish.

And they are never satisfied with the result. Good can always become better in their mind. Improvement is a never ending process in their pathway. Progress is a daily goal. Every end is a new start in a chain of consecutive steps ahead. Change Leaders never stop. They walk and walk and walk.

One cannot be a Great Leader if she has not been a proven Change Leader first!

How many Leaders with such characteristics and attitudes have you met in your professional life? Have they exercised change personally and consistently or have they just been “lecturers” of changes they have never practiced? I would be grateful if you shared your own experiences here.