CHANGE in life is as inevitable as sunset coming after sunrise. The paradox is that most people are uncomfortable with change because of its disruptive, chaotic and sometimes unpredictable nature.
Disruptive as it is, change offers a lot of opportunities to a discerning and wise leader. First and foremost, if there was no change in life, there would be no opportunity for growth, progress or advancement.
This implies that business ideas and opinions that were cherished in the past must metamorphose or die so as to pave way for modern ways of thinking and doing things.
Change is the only thing which is truly constant about human nature and human life. Even the physical environment around us changes.
That is why there is autumn, winter, summer and spring. These climatic seasons are reflected in the life and performance of business entities and those who lead them.
Management scientists speak of products having a life cycle which consist of four key stages, namely birth/inception stage, young/youthful stage, maturity stage and old age.
The business world encounters serious problems when founders and owner-managers of companies fail to see the significance of change in the perpetuity of their organisations.
Proper leadership planning also called succession planning is necessary for a company to succeed in the future. It is generally agreed that failing to plan in business is planning to fail as a business concern.
Planning just like any aspect of strategy or strategic management must be predicated on a leader’s acknowledgement of his her mortality and limitedness.
What a leader knows about the business world is at best a very small microcosm of what is currently known about business processes, ventures and techniques.
No matter how successful a business leader is at present, a sober mind would know that present success is not a guarantee that the business will be successful in future.
A careful study of banks and other financial institutions that collapsed in the United States during the financial crisis reveals that the same companies had been reporting high profits in the years preceding 2007.
There is usually a lull before a very destructive storm. The wise in business circles know that surviving inevitable storms occasioned by business cycles of boom and bust takes years of meticulous planning.
Since success is never an accident, this means that its negation which is failure cannot be an accident too. In fact, much business failure is caused by inability to anticipate a radically changed socioeconomic landscape.
All successful business leaders are also good mentors of others so that their dream may live on long after they have run their course. What could have become of Apple Incorporated if Steven Paul Jobs had not mentored Tim Cook, or what would have become of Forbes Magazine if Bertie Charles Forbes did not have a clear mentorship programme?
All business leaders must know that they operate in a dynamic environment which has no mercy on those who fail to plan for it.
Since change is a central aspect of any business, it is important to single out four important rules or principles of change that all leaders and managers must take into account.
First, there is no known force on earth which is able to prevent or stop change. The rule is that change is inevitable. It may take time, but it eventually knocks on the door of each and every business entity.
This is where preparation comes into the picture so that by the time change beckons, the business is prepared for it or it would become a dinosaur in the annals of history.
Since change cannot be stopped, this implies that the best we can do is to manage it. Managed change is better than unharnessed change which is often disruptive to an organisation’s processes and life.
The second rule is that since change is incessant, that is, occurs at all times, the time to start planning for change is NOW. Those who start planning for change in the business world tomorrow oftentimes realise that tomorrow may never arrive.
If tomorrow arrives, the company may have lost a head-start in managing and containing the disruptive and random effects of change. Most companies that will start planning for change tomorrow will realise that those that start today have a first mover advantage over them when it comes to reaping the fruits of change.
The third rule of change in the life of businesses is that good things come to those who work and wait for opportunities patiently.
True business success is not necessarily a product of one stroke of genius or luck. It is a result of many years of toil and perseverance against odd circumstances because genius is often “one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration” (Thomas Edison).
Since no business entity can control circumstances in the business environment, this means that companies have to deal with situations as they come and go.
The forth rule is that change causes today’s followers to be tomorrow’s leaders, today’s disciples to be tomorrow’s apostles, today’s students to be tomorrow’s professors, today’s privates to be tomorrow’s brigadiers and today’s garden boys to be tomorrow’s magnates.
What this implies is that the belief that leadership is inborn is highly likely to be a myth. Many leadership qualities are usually inborn (and all human beings have inborn leadership qualities in varying proportions), but leadership as a set of social functions is definitely not inborn because it needs the right combination of circumstances and situations to be expressed.
Leadership is a child of both nature (birth) and nurture (circumstances). All leadership is therefore situational. Genuine leadership has to do with personal convictions and beliefs that what one is doing through an organisation or company is not only right, but necessary.
Whether what is needed today will be necessary in future, only time has authority to tell!
l Ian Ndlovu is an economics lecturer at the National University of Science and Technology. His research interests cover business, development, economic and e-commerce issues. He writes in his personal capacity.