Chess, Leadership & Change

This spring my son took a 12-week chess class at his elementary school.  So a couple times a week, he and I play chess together.  And here’s what I love about chess: it’s a strategic game.  You have to learn to think ahead.  You can increase your proficiency by learning opening moves and strategies for success.  It’s a sport that even though it’s played “solo” (albeit against another person), each side has a team.  The pieces have different functions and effectiveness.  Every move has a consequence. Therefore, think through all of the possible ramifications before you make the move and take your fingers off the game piece.  Chess is a great, strategic game.

I find that leading, and especially leading change, is a lot like chess. To lead well, you have to think and act strategically.  You’ve got to know your team members’ functions, strengths, and limitations.  And you better think through the consequences of decisions before you make the move.  You don’t want to be stymied by over analysis, but you do want to be wise. Much like chess played with a game clock, timely decisions are a must.

In leading and bringing change to an organization, leaders must think through the different moves and the resulting consequences.  If I make this decision, who will it affect and how will it affect them?  How will it affect positively or adversely the momentum that we are experiencing?  What’s it going to cost me from the “trust bank”?  Who am I going to need to spend the most time with before, during, and after the change?  Leading change requires a strategic mind and a courageous heart.  If either one is lacking, the results can be disastrous for yourself, your team, and your organization.  The strategic mind thinks through necessary moves the game board and the courageous heart is willing to actually make the move.

What change do you need to bring to your organization right now?  Have you thought through the strategy of the why and how of the change?  Have you spent time thinking through the possible scenarios and consequences of the change?  And do you have the heart and energy to bring it?  If not, think through it more.  Get good counsel from wise leaders, especially influencers of change.  If you do have the strategy and the heart, make a bold and dynamic move to bring the changed needed.

Here are some of the books that have helped me in bringing change:

John Kotter, The Heart of Change (also see the Field Guide)

John Kotter, Our Iceberg is Melting

William Bridges, Managing Transitions

Michael Watkins, The First 90 Days

Patrick Lencioni, Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars

What lessons have you learned leading change?  What are some of the books on leading and managing change that you’d recommend?

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