Change vs. Transition: Taking off and Landing

by vernsanders on January 18, 2011

If you’re just joining this conversation, I’m trying to focus on reading and commenting in this month’s blogs. In my last post, the subject was a quote by William Bridges published with commentary in a blog by Rhett Smith. Here’s the essence of the quote (and the bold is added by Rhett…not me), all of which you can find here:

Change is situational. Transition on the other hand, is psychological (bold added for emphasis). It is not (events), but rather the inner reorientation and self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life. Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, the change won’t work, because it doesn’t ‘take.’ Whatever word we use, our society talks a lot about change; but it seldom deals with transition. Unfortunately for us, it is the transition that blind-sides us and is often the source of our troubles.

Then Rhett, in commenting on this quote says:

Change can come easy, but transitioning will take work. So don’t commit to just changing this year, but commit to transitioning.

Last time I talked about why “change” and “transition” are only part of the conversation.

This time I want to talk specifically about leadership, and the burden that is placed upon it during change and/or transition.

It is said that airline pilots are paid large sums of money for the transitions: taking off and landing. They are not paid for the flying. The reason should be obvious.

I maintain that the same thing should apply to leaders in every field. There is enough literature and/or training around that anyone with any small degree of interest can become a better “do-er” of leadership tasks: turning reports in on time, balancing budgets, designing schedules. To put it in the church music/worship leader vocabulary: you can learn to teach the notes better, you can get your music titles in on time, and you can choose good music.

But what happens when something goes wrong, or otherwise changes? When leadership is truly needed in that moment of transition…whether that is instantaneously reacting to someone collapsing on the worship platform, or figuring out how to work with a new pastor so that everyone is better served?

I believe that real leaders prepare themselves, and those they lead for change and transition. They practice responses to the unexpected happening during take offs and landings…and during what is supposed to be periods of smooth flying as well.

Still more to come in my next post, including specific examples and techniques for preparing groups for the scary moments. For now, please leave a comment and let me know what you think: should leaders be judged and paid for how they function during times of high stress?

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