How to Get Senior Leaders to Change

Most senior executives understand and generally buy into the famous aphorism, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Prompted by HR professionals or consultants, they often commit themselves to "being the change" by personally role-modeling the desired behaviors. And then, in practice, nothing significant changes.

According to Scott Keller, this often happens because most executives don’t see themselves as “part of the problem.” Therefore, deep down, they do not believe that it is they who need to change, even though in principle they agree that leaders must model the desired changes.

Another part of the problem is that most people also have an unwarranted optimism in relation to their own behavior. In many behavior-related areas, human beings consistently think they are better than they are – a phenomenon referred to in psychology as a “self-serving bias.” Whereas conventional change management approaches surmise that top team role modeling is a matter of will (“wanting to change”) or skill (“knowing how to change”), the inconvenient truth is that the real bottleneck to role modeling is knowing what to change at a personal level.

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