Why Leading for Change Will Make You a Better Leader

For many managers, effective leadership suggests pursuing a path to influencing and empowering a team to deliver results. We see leadership as driving behaviors, motivating a team and creating an environment for personal, professional and/or financial achievement. This is what I call Leading for Success.

Leading for Success is fundamental because it supports personal growth, creates positive economic momentum, and offers countless benefits for employees, companies, shareholders and communities. One downside to Leading for Success, however, is that because it offers so many positives, we could easily overlook another leadership path which I call Leading for Change. As many of us work tirelessly to innovate, reach goals and strive for better results, it is almost as if Leading for Change is over-shadowed by Leading for Success, causing us to miss the power of Leading for Change.

How would I define Leading for Change? While Leading for Success might suggest language like ownership, power, resolve, commitment, drive, and influence; Leading for Change suggests compassion, justice, care, respect, support and education. Therefore, Leading for Change is essentially the use of leadership skills to pursue and achieve positive change across some of the most essential pillars of a modern and humane society, such as:

(1) ensuring access to justice,

(2) supporting those who are weak, vulnerable or unable to help themselves,

(3) safeguarding people from violence, harm and exploitation (with a personal and team focus on helping women),

(4) giving children a safe and nurturing foundation for play, socialization, learning and development,

(5) providing access to education and healthcare, and

(6) creating opportunities for everyone to participate in an increasingly digital and technological society.

This list can actually go on, and I would for example add preventing animal cruelty, but these six items are the core areas which in my personal view can greatly benefit from Leading for Change.

To illustrate this concept and how the two leadership strategies can co-exist, I offer my personal experience as Group General Counsel, Dentsu Aegis Network, leading a global team of 160 lawyers. In my role, I motivate, direct and influence a group of colleagues dispersed across skills and geographies to a common set of objectives that align with the goals and strategies of our business — which reflects Leading for Success. Employing Leading for Success, we undertake projects with coherence, collaboration, skill and personal responsibility.

While being able to achieve results and recognition with Leading for Success, I sensed something missing in that it only provided a certain degree of personal self-fulfillment, and rarely fostered a feeling of having a profound and positive impact on society. Even when we increased our team’s efforts to actively support our company’s CSR initiatives, I eventually understood that the full societal impact of what we could achieve could only be done with the application of our legal skills and Leading for Change.

Harnessing our legal skills, we embarked on an intensive pro bono program across our global legal team. And to create wider impact and participation internally, as well as to motivate non-legal employees to join CSR work, we created opportunities for others to contribute to some of our pro bono projects.

Leading for Change meant a call to action for our team to pursue not only pro bono opportunities that underpinned our CSR objectives such as supporting our communities, pursuing environmental goals and creating a digital economy that works for everyone, but also to support a wider set of organizations and societal objectives. As a result, we recently assisted organizations that: support female victims of sexual and other forms of abuse, provide learning opportunities for youth, motivate women and girls in difficult conditions to pursue new skills and careers, create technology that provide rural African communities with access to electricity, and assist children in poor countries suffering from cardiovascular disease. And we have sought to make ourselves accountable on the basis of clear principles by joining the Pro Bono Institute’s Corporate Pro Bono Challenge and the Law Society’s Pro Bono Charter.

Our US team supporting one of our many pro bono partners.

Leading for Change allows us to motivate, inspire and create deep personal satisfaction by using our skills to foster moments of care, humanity, justice and compassion. This then reinforces many of the accomplishments that we already derive from Leading for Success. Leading for Change also enables our team to serve organizations whom we connect with on a personal level. As a result, we are creating future legal leaders with an emotional connection to, and first-hand recognition of, the value of Leading for Change.

My conclusion is simple — you have so much to gain by mastering Leading for Success; humanity has so much to gain by you mastering Leading for Change. While it may be difficult to decide which path to prioritize — my experience is teaching me that the best outcome is to employ and demonstrate the virtues and benefits of both.