Can We Change an Organisation from the Bottom Up?

Murielle Machiels Academic Director "Leading Authentically in Digital Times" at the SBS-EM & Founder at QiLeader 12/04/2019 Leadership

I often get this question from leaders: “Can I change the organisation if my management team doesn’t change? I want to apply these new business techniques, but my management team still functions with the techniques of the past.”

This is a great question. Unfortunately, the answer is not black or white.

The level of consciousness of an organisation cannot surpass the level of consciousness of its leader. If you have a CEO (or management team) that still functions at a low level of consciousness (demand & control, basic collaboration, short-term focus, status, …) and you function at a higher level (values driven, purpose driven, long-term focus, …), you will probably be very unhappy in that organisation. Transforming that organisation from the bottom up will be very difficult. The management team might not cooperate; instead, it might feel threatened by that transformation. They might try to stop the bottom-up initiatives and see these as attempts to diminish their power.

On the other hand, if you really believe in something and find a couple of people that believe in that something too (your “why”), you will manage to transform the organisation from the bottom up. You will draw your energy from your “why”. You will find ways to transform despite the roadblocks, despite the failures, despite the difficulties. As long as you keep believing that it is possible, you’ll continue trying until you succeed. It will probably take years, and you’ll need to have a very strong “why” to keep your motivation over a long period of time.

When you have a CEO (or management team) with a high level of consciousness, the change can easily come from the bottom up because she (or he) will allow it or even stimulate it.

My answer to this question: With a high level of consciousness from your management team, bottom-up change will be easy. With a low level of consciousness from the management team, bottom-up change will be very hard and will depend on the motivation of the group that tries to change.

I believe that we need to increase the level of consciousness of our leaders if we want success in our organisations, but also if we want to increase the happiness of our people and the sustainability of our planet. We need authentic leaders that lead with their heart and their values instead of their fears. When you learn to manage your fears and live in line with your values, you become authentic and very powerful.

I am curious—how would you answer this question?

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