A Leadership Puzzle

Today I have a puzzle that will test if you are a leader or a manager. It is a case study that ends with a real person asking a real question. Please consider the case, the question, and determine how you will respond.


The Case

You head up a large organization that does important work. It is known as a stable, dependable system. You can see changes happening everywhere. A major competitor, for example, is continually developing new capacities, and the implications are grave. So, your focus has turned to changing the culture towards innovation. Your first step was a two-day retreat for several hundred senior people. On the first day, recognized thought leaders speak to the group. They share the fundamentals of culture change. On the second day one of the speakers asks for questions. A person turns to you and says the following.

 “I listened to the presentation on being change champions, I have examined the cases on becoming a leader of change. The insights are inspiring, but these are not things I do, and they are not things my boss does. I am going to leave this auditorium and return to my office. I will be immediately inundated with things I have to do. I am not going to even remember what I have heard here. The truth is, I live in overwhelming demands, and I cannot do what I am seeing here. So, what is the point?”

If you cannot answer this question in a way that inspires everyone in the room to reframe their personal vision, your change effort will fail, and so will your organization. How do you respond?

Before you respond, take some time. Recognize that the question is not only honest, logical, and realistic, it is universalistic. The man is speaking for 95% of the people in the room, and for 95% of the people in professional life across the globe. He represents the truth that makes culture change a genuine challenge. What do you learn from this question? Now how will your respond?

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