To be a change agent is not only squared to those with a leadership title. Anyone can be a change agent and a leader inside their team or organization, even if you do not have a leadership position.
But if you are in a leadership role, you will have the spotlight directly on top of you. What does that mean? It means your people will look to you for guidance, for “the right way to do things.”
Sometimes I face some confusion when debating Servant-Leadership philosophy regarding this matter. A servant-leader should indeed be a servant first. But we should never forget the leader in servant-leader. And a leader is the person who has the difficult task of being a beacon to others. How come you want to have changes in your team or your organization, but you do not take the first step towards it?
A couple of years ago, I encountered a story that probably is fictional, but I enjoyed it as a metaphor.
This metaphor takes place in India during the 20th century. A mother whose obese child had difficulty stopping eating candies decided to ask for help from the great Gandhi. India is a big country, and visiting Gandhi would take days and great effort. But the mother in distress thought it would be the last chance for her child.
After a couple of days travelling, they faced a long line of people waiting for an appointment with Gandhi. Finally, their opportunity arrived, and this mother tried her best to ask Gandhi for guidance or, better, for candid and direct feedback to her child. Surprisingly Gandhi sent them back to their village without an answer or solution. Just with the guarantee that he would attend them again in a month.
This mother took his child back to their village and waited for a month with great effort and sacrifice.
Time passed. It was about time to travel back to Gandhi and see what he would have for them. Upon arrival, and after waiting in cue for a long day, Gandhi directly prompted the kid – “You will stop eating candies right now!”
Wow, the mother was unbelieving what she was seeing. After all the effort and travelling back and forth, Gandhi just said the same thing she had been speaking for months to her child.
She could not help it. With great anger, she was compelled to provide feedback to Gandhi.
“Dear Gandhi, how come after all our effort, and all the time you had to think about the problem, the only thing you have to say is – stop right now! I’ve been saying the same thing for months, and I thought your brilliant mind would have more insights to face this situation. I feel cheated.”
In a very peaceful and calm manner, Gandhi answered back – “a month ago I, as well, eaten candies. I stopped for a month, and that’s why I can tell him to stop. If I could, he can as well”.
I really appreciate this metaphor.
When you want to see changes in your world, be it your home, team, or organization, show your people how to do things with your example. Be the change you want to have.
Be a change agent!