With regard to leading change, at the height of the pro-democracy student protests in Hong Kong there were 100,000 fourteen to seventeen year old students sitting in the road, doing their homework, peacefully and effectively blocking the main artery into the Hong Kong Central business district. It was a remarkable sight. They sat there in 120° heat and no shade and then days of torrential rain. It was the typhoon season in Hong Kong. I thought to myself: “you can’t pay people or incentivize them to do this. This kind of unprecedented action results from being committed to a future, that is worth dedicating oneself to, and risking the status quo for.”

What can leaders of organizations learn from our student movement?

Leaders of organizational change can learn a lot from these inspiring young people. Along with their courage and persistence, came extraordinary organization, and a charter of operating principals and behavior that many different groups aligned behind and honored. The charter included:

  •  Absolutely no violence
  • No damage to anybody’s property including public property
  • We help one another
  • We clean up and honor our environment
  • And a reminder that this is a protest, not a party, so no guitars and singing.

The commitment of the campaign is to instate a democratic process of selecting the leader of Hong Kong. The charter and behaviors, thoughtfully designed and beautifully executed, were designed to allow our young people to demonstrate that they are worthy and ready for that change and privilege.

One particularly inspiring conversation was with a young woman, 15 years old and I quote: “The government says it is going to arrest all of the student leaders. But how can they do that when all 100,000 of us are the leaders?” Remarkable. I thought to myself, what if people in a 100,000 person organization reliably spoke and acted like that? It is possible.

What are the keys for inspired leadership and performance?

Leadership is not a function of position, title, hierarchy or even accountability. People at all levels of the organization are and can be leaders. Leadership begins with creating a future for your organization that would not otherwise happen, one that inspires, challenges and calls forth the best of people to make the necessary changes. It makes possible inspired, breakthrough results versus predictable outcomes.

What are the characteristics of successful leaders of change today?

“They are not just visionary, they are at work making sure a particular future is possible. The future they seek is bold, compelling, and captures the very essence of winning. They take time to build trust and bring people along—speaking authentically and operating with consistency and integrity. They encourage inventive and unorthodox action. They build their company’s culture, then they build it some more.” Shideh Sedgh Bina, Insigniam

How do you deliver a future that is not predictable?

Insigniam’s Nathan Rosenberg recently shared a conversation with Tim Bailey, Executive Vice President, Global Product Supply, Business Services & Technology, at S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. puts it, “If you start with possibility and work your way back to the current circumstances, you always end up with something bigger than if you start with the circumstances and try to figure out what is possible.” Tim is a brilliant, transformational leader who knows what it takes to cause breakthrough changes, having led and championed dozens of breakthrough projects that have brought hundreds of thousands of dollars to the bottom line.

There is nothing more compelling for people than being in service of a possibility that is for us a mighty one. This is the place to start.

What is the extraordinary future that you are committed to for your organization, one that will call forth unprecedented action and result in competitive advantage?

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