Leadership Lessons...from the Transition Zone

Today in Ridgewood, New Jersey, I was a guest speaker at the 3 year anniversary conference of Neighbors Helping Neighbors, an organization focused on helping the unemployed find work. The founder of NhN, John Fugazzie, invited me to speak about leadership.

Here in essence is my message. Job hunters have to recognize a huge blind spot and eliminate it. By getting rid of this unconscious obstruction, the unemployed can recognize and communicate to employers a strength that they possess that is very much in demand today.

What is it? Job hunters know something that is very valuable about leadership and change. Let me explain.

The great leadership expert Warren Bennis once defined leadership as the capacity to turn vision into reality.

Leading therefore is essentially about change. About making change happen.

Change is a difficult thing for many of us. Change expert William Bridges taught us about the distinction between change and transition. He once said: "So many change initiatives seem to cost too much, take too long, and fail to meet their objectives because they do only half the job. They are change-heavy and transition-light. Change and transition are different, and both are necessary for any significant change to work."

Job hunters know a great deal about transition. They are referred to as "transitioners." I even like to say that they are "transitionists," people who become quite adept at riding the waves of change.

So job hunters, whether they realize it or not, are learning very valuable lessons about what it takes to lead change. If I were to drill in and identify three of the skills, I would take a page from the U.S. Marines:

Adapt - Adapting means learning and changing constantly in the face of volatility, uncertainty, chaos, and ambiguity. Learning about oneself is especially important to job hunters so that they are always growing, getting feedback, and challenging themselves to keep moving.

Improvise - To improvise is to creatively generate alternate options. Sometimes on the spot! To innovate and come up with new ways to address the challenges one faces.

Overcome - Job hunters know about overcoming obstacles. Including overcoming fear. The great First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Organizational change expert Roland Sullivan once wrote in a note to me, "The leaders that have a successful way to transform their organizations will win the game."

Every organization that I know is looking to improve, and some even want to transform themselves into a high performance organization. Who better to help with this than someone who is a living, breathing veteran of transformation and change?

Day in and day out, job hunters are selling their brand to potential employers with the aim of producing a job offer. Turning a vision into reality.

Leaders make change happen. Job hunters can do that for their next employer.

Added Note: My LinkedIn connection Tim Soden shared this quote recently which captures the message in this blog post:

Think of managing change as an adventure. It tests your skills and abilities. It brings forth talent that may have been dormant. Change is also a training ground for leadership. When we think of leaders, we remember times of change, innovation and conflict. Leadership is often about shaping a new way of life. To do that, you must advance change, take risks and accept responsibility for making change happen.” ~ Charles E Rice.

Posted on Terrence Seamon Monday January 27, 2014


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