This post was written by Martín Zaffignani, Executive Partner of Easy Training Choice.
The purpose of this article is to briefly compare the Leader, Entrepreneur and Change Agent concepts. It also intends to suggest and generate debate on what would be the practical approach for these three elements to interact with each other and consequently, obtain successful change processes and/or transformations. Its final goal is to review at a high level the behaviour and abilities of those three previously mentioned roles, and most of all, to highlight the breaking though opportunity and obvious benefits of having the right Change Agents.
Beginning arbitrarily, one can point out that a **Leader **is the one who has a position of power and responsibility among other people: he is acknowledged as such by the rest. To exemplify, one could say that teachers, researchers, directors or managers, doctors, coaches, legislators, etc all of them take decisions that affect a certain group of people. All of them foster change.
Determining whether a leader is good or bad is a subjective dimension that should be solved by each affected group of people. Thus, it is convenient to focus on evaluating the leader´s effectiveness and efficiency that is, how he/she meets the specific objective in time and place. This allows us to be more objective and to provide tools to construct a framework more applicable and/or more replicable. Following this line of thought, it could also be added the analysis of quality and the time devoted to prepare the field for future changes that is, the leader´s vision.
In this way: analysing the effectiveness, efficiency and the vision, one can evaluate and adjust the actions defined by the leader in order to change the status quo and transform it.
An Entrepreneur, from my point of view, is one type of leader. Despite of having most of the competences of the latter, he/she lacks of wide or predetermined acknowledgement: he has a specific position of power which he himself has built. The Entrepreneur has an important and rare doses of perseverance and ambition, which makes him/her stand out from the status quo he sometimes unconsciously changes: both levels (micro and macro.)
His/her decision taking process is permanent and he/she deals with it thoroughly and with great attention, like a Leader. He/she is constantly in contact with the outside world detecting opportunities and threats in the short and mid run.
None of the roles mentioned previously are easy to carry out. To be a leader and/or an Entrepreneur is a tempting task, but at the same time it is not simple.
In both cases, one of the key points of success is the way Leaders and Entrepreneurs interact with other people: they supervise, make bonds, hire people, share their knowledge, etc. In other words and in a broad sense, they do this with their team.
This last point helps me focus on the third role mentioned: Change Agent.
A Change Agent also share some of the characteristics Leaders and Entrepreneurs have, but basically he/she is a person who “operatively” helps a new context in an organization or any given “system” to take place. Of course, the implementation of this new context includes, reaching the performance levels and/or the specific objectives defined. A good Change Agent accomplishes his/her mission not only efficiently but effectively.
There are Change Agents in different positions within the Organization and there are various challenges they lead. To be a Change Agent, it is more important to have true and accurate skills than to have a position or a certain type of previous technical knowledge. This is so because within the transformational processes, there are different variables and dimensions to consider and negotiate, which go beyond any daily routine. It could be mentioned: material resources, money (budget), groups of people with different profiles and knowledge, synergy of effort, risk and mitigation factors, unforeseen issues and hazards.
Some change processes to be mentioned are: the implementation of a new machine, a specific law, a new research technique, or the opening of a new course of studies at college. This will require from the Change Agent to:
- Understand and seize the purpose of the change.
- Know the main changes or differences that the new context will bring.
- Efficiently coordinate an action plan.
- Carry out communication, negotiation and/or training activities.
- Supervise the right participation and involvement on the part of the key groups or people.
- Capitalize and communicate the partial or final benefits obtained.
To accomplish such challenges, Change Agents negotiate – as we have already mentioned – different variables, and in order to do that, they rely on at least these characteristics and skills:
- They easily understand the connection between the strategic objectives of the process of change and each one of the plans or assigned activities.
- They like hand-on experience: they enjoy implementing solutions and seeing with their own eyes how something which was previously thought and planned has been effectively carried out; they also have this feeling of “urgency”.
- They tend to be passionate (not necessarily extroverted) with the tasks or activities they perform. They are happy with the job they have, but this does not mean they are conformists.
- Needless to say, they are down-to-earth and mature people which distinguishes them from the rest.
- They know their limits: they know when, how and to whom ask for help.
- They are acknowledged by the rest of the group.
- The have the skills to negotiate projects: they can prioritize, delegate, control, reward, and punish.
- They show results.
One of the many advantages of having this type of people is that it is a pleasure to work with them: they tend to be loyal, honorable with simple and transparent codes. Another benefit thought this is less evident is that those Change Agents who are well taken care of automatically stand out as a model of conduct to be followed by the rest of the group.
To conclude this first draft, I believe that one of the challenges Leaders and Entrepreneurs face is to identify, motivate, help to develop and keep: Change Agents. This will make your company not only successful, but also long lasting and (ambitiously thinking) better with the passing of time.