Leading Change

This morning’s New York Times had a “Corner Office” interview with Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of non-profit Harlem Children’s Zone. Canada is a visionary leader who recognized that in order to change the outcomes for poor, black youth, he needed to provide them with the same tools and opportunities available to upper-class children from before birth. He actively recruiting parents to attend his Baby College, based in some measure on the work of University of Chicago’s James Heckman.

While an admirer of Canada’s for some time, it had not occurred to me that he would meet resistance in the organizations he was leading. I assumed, naively, that people would just get on board. His interview is a reminder that change is hard, that sometimes certain people will never get on board, and that when leading change, a leader won’t be liked.

The entire article is a worthwhile read – in trying to find a quote to whet the appetite, one after the other just seemed great. I’ll close with this one, but urge the reader to click the link above to the entire article.

Now I am very clear with people that I will respect your opinion, and I will listen to the range of issues on the table, but once a decision is made, even if you don’t agree with it, it is your job to make me right. That’s just how it goes. Then, in the end, if it turns out that we’ve worked as hard as possible and I’m wrong, I’ll just say, ”O.K., so let’s change.” I’ve also been convinced of some paths we should go down when people make a reasonable case. You want to encourage the kind of risk-taking behavior that keeps organizations moving forward.

Published by Don Laackman

Leader with non-profit, higher education, and private-sector consulting experience.

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