You Can't Outsource Leadership

How to Lead a Change Agent

Posted on Posted in blog articles

Change agents run into problems when they bring powerful vision and hope into an insecure company. When they arrive, leaders can feel as though their culture and goal, maybe even their position and authority, are threatened. But the answer isn’t to give up. Instead, find out how to turn a change agent from your personal competition to a powerful catalyst for success.

You can’t Lead What You Don’t Understand

So you want good things to happen in your team, so you give the job to someone. And even better, this person has done it before…in a larger company…with much success.

But as the weeks progress, you start to question whether he can really do it. In the end, he fails and you’re left saying “We tried that. It didn’t work.”

But do you know WHY it didn’t work?

Why can’t you import change into a culture? We’re gonna go over a few myths and see if we can’t understand things a little better.

Myths of Importing Leadership

Just because someone created change in another organization doesn’t mean they can do it in your organization. Because, the truth is, it wasn’t just them making change before, and it won’t be just them involved when they arrive on your team.

  • Change doesn’t come with risk. “They did it at Nike, so they have a proven track record. They can for sure do it here.” Change always comes with risk. No two situations are exactly alike. There will be risk, and if you can’t understand how to assess and coach the success of an innovator, you should not try.


  • Change doesn’t have to change our culture. “Why should we have to change our culture just to innovate.” Innovation and creativity change the way you do things. It represents a values change. If you’ve been talking about creativity, that’s one thing. But when your team sees you actually doing it, they’re gonna adjust. And when you bring in someone to fix anything, and it’s working, you might see people start to feel threatened and become entrenched. And if you ignore the problem or handle it poorly, be prepared for problems.


  • Change doesn’t have to change our processes in other areas of our company. “Why should it affect manufacturing, when the innovation is in customer service?” By definition, change affects everything about your company. It will have a ripple effect, and there will be small problems in other areas of the company as certain areas align faster than others.

And when you’re the leader, all these things fall on you. If you hire the right person, but aren’t able to support them, they’ll fail, and you’ll be left doing damage control. This is why the following solution is so important.

Lead Change. But Don’t Manage It.

  • Go all the way. Did you know that, when you bring in someone to affect change, you’re bringing in leadership? So don’t go halfway. Go all the way. Make it crystal clear where change can happen, so you don’t have to make decisions case-by-case (also called “micromanagement”).
  • Be more decisive: think it through. The easiest way? Before you hire her as a leader on your team, hire her as a consultant. Have her make the plan and write up the job description with you, so you can talk through the “why” and “how.”
  • Contract first, to test leadership. Make sure he’s a leader who makes everyone feel respected. Warning: don’t go on your impression, because salespeople are good at putting on a good face in front of their boss. So make sure by talking with people in the organization before hiring. It doesn’t hurt if he’s a good presenter and trainer.

Change. But Count the Costs.

If you’re thinking about changing anything big within your organization, watch out for these myths. Not only are they not true, but you don’t want them to be true. If you want your team to work with integrity, that means everything’s aligned. And when you bring on innovation, creativity or just problem solving, it becomes who you are. And that’s a good thing.

The moral of the story: If you’re a leader, trying to affect change, that’s usually a good thing. And if you count the costs, you reduce your risk of failure significantly, while increasing your chances of real, positive change in your team.

Discuss this further on Slack.