10 Essential Principles of Implementation Leadership
November 15, 2021 – This article is one in a series of articles about ACJI’s 10 Essential Principles of Implementation Leadership.
Principle 1: Trust The Vision
Leaders are often taught to manage change, as if it is something you can direct and control. This technical approach to change fails to recognize the importance of adaptation, experimentation, and embracing an infinite mindset as critical components of leading change in an organization. All of this requires that leaders step outside of their comfort zone, support their staff in doing the same, and that can be a challenge in and of itself. When it comes to trusting the vision, one of the components that is left out of the traditional change management formula is a leader’s own mindset (thoughts, attitudes, emotions, values, and beliefs) and its tremendous impact on the change process.
In fact, our mindsets are contagious. And those in positions of power, or perceived positions of power, in a change setting have the most contagious mindsets of all. That’s the crux of this first principle in ACJI’s 10 Principles of Implementation Leadership model.
Trusting the Vision means that you, the leader, need to see the future and take a stance on it. Then, you need to understand you are the mental acclimatizer of your organization. Your attitude about the change (well, about everything really) is more influential than your explicit behavior.
Emotional Contagion In Your Organization
The limbic system of the human brain, which serves as our emotional center as well as our decision-making engine, operates on an open-loop structure where the brain manages internal emotions with external stimuli. In contrast to a closed-loop system that is self-regulating, our mammal brain in its open-loop format likes to appropriate feelings from the thoughts, emotions, and beliefs of those around us. The open-loop system explains why we can be stressed by the stress of others, ‘feel’ the tension that exists in a room, as well as be soothed by others calmness.
Our brain’s emotional regulation properties show up physiologically, too. Some functions like blood pressure, secretion of fatty acids and hormones, immunity, sleep, and heart rate are dependent on how we regulate our emotions. In fact, studies have shown that by simply taking deep breaths when you are feeling stress, you can lower not only your own physiological stress response but also that of those around you.
Negativity Is Tempting AND Contagious
There are over two hundred studies showing that humans have a stronger implicit preference for negative mental experiences than positive ones*. We are wired to invest more emotional energy in bad news than good news, as well as to remember negative tidbits of information over positive ones, which has led to our survival as a species.
This research is compellingly relevant to implementation settings, as many things can go wrong and there is a lot of discomfort in the change process. Our default setting of being hyper-focused on negativity, also called negativity bias, while necessary in a crisis situation, can often get in the way of effective implementation, causing us to regress to old habits and fear the unknown that comes with change. Harnessing your emotional contagion, especially at work, can be a transformative experience for leaders doing implementation work.
What if you could recognize the brain’s default settings at work and re-direct your mindset for the purpose of achieving organizational implementation goals?
If you are a leader, be sure to read our next article on Principle 2: Murphy Hates Us. You can learn more about the 10 Essential Principles of Implementation Leadership and Trusting the Vision in our upcoming Leadership Academy, which talks about all 10 of the principles in much more depth.
*Schemer, 2012; Zak, 2015