Leadership Matters: Commit to Progress

red paper airplane points upward as it progresses up wood block stairs
Dean Lindsay Photo
Author and Consultant

3 minutes

Move from a culture of grudging change management to one of empowered progress by including your team members in the process.

All progress is change, but not all change is progress. No one plans to change or desires to change, but we embrace what we view as progress.

There is a powerful and important connection between solid leadership, sales success, true customer loyalty and organizational culture improvements. All are achieved by effectively positioning ideas, recommendations, solutions, products, services and even ourselves as progress—not change—in the minds of those we intend to lead or to inspire to positive action.

Shift Away From Change Management

The business term “change management” has been around for a good long while. The term relates to initiating significant change within an organization’s processes. Such change can include anything from altering organizational culture to embracing diversity to modifying an individual’s work tasks to increasing morale and loyalty to an organization’s mission and vision. The goal behind “initiating significant change” may be solid, but the problem begins with the term and focus on “change management” rather than “progress leadership.” We do not want managers to manage our change. We want leaders to lead our progress. In a time of continual transformation, committed leaders should focus on inspiring and influencing progress, not supervising change. Likewise, leaders should position challenges as opportunities, not merely problems to be solved. 

Leaders—along with our solutions, directions, guidance, vision, strategy and communication style and our organization’s mission and vision, products and services—must be positioned as agents of progress in the minds of those we intend to lead and inspire to positive action.

Provide a Reason

Organizations are most successful at “initiating significant change” when the reasons to act connect personally with the individual employees taking action or making the alteration in behavior. If the reasons for the desired action don’t connect with the individual, then the planned progress will be viewed simply as change and will be resisted. Team members may still physically clock in, but they’ll have mentally checked out. But true leaders don’t just tell people what to do—we include others in the progress as well as the process and work to positively influence thoughts and feelings by sharing reasons to act.

Make no mistake about it: All leadership begins with self. Committing to progress leadership means personally striving to help others find meaning in their work. This means working to understand and communicate how a team member’s personal goals can dovetail with the organization’s goals and thus create true commitment to action—because they want to, not because they have to. 

Create a Culture of Empowerment

Leaders committed to being progress agents in an ever-changing world focus on helping all team members progress rather than making employees comply with new processes. Progress agents thus create an organizational culture in which empowered employees are committed to finding what is truly the next step forward. Also, just because an organization is getting bigger does not mean it is progressing—this is a serious challenge for growing companies large and small.

Committing to progress leadership enhances employee engagement and morale because it creates a shift from wielding power over employees to creating power among employees. Progress leadership helps all team members create the internal drive needed to focus on and commit to the organization’s mission and vision. Our ability to lead organizational progress is directly related to how successful we are at helping others; committed leaders progress as they help others progress.

The tough journey, in leadership and in life, is to travel the long road from “always knew” to “always do.” Execution is vital. Learning should not lead to simply knowing. Learning should lead to action. True progress leadership requires well-planned, progress-based action. And beware of any proposed change that, after some thought, does not seem like common sense. The unfortunate truth about common sense is that it’s rarely common practice.

Committed leaders are progress agents, not change agents. Commit to progress leadership. Be progress.

Dean Lindsay is the author of Progress Leadership: Say No to Change Management. He is an award-winning business book author, skilled business culture consultant and a powerful keynote speaker. For more information, please visit

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