Leadership isn’t about what you say. It’s about how you show up, what you do, who you are. In this online post, The Five Principles of Change Leadership, June Bradham highlights what it takes to be a change leader. What she offers is a simple but effective checklist for evaluating the sponsors we support so that we can guide them toward more effective change leadership. While the topics are Bradham’s, I am putting my spin on each, based on my own five decades of change experience.

  1. “Executive Presence Matters.” This is about how your sponsor is showing up. People read through pretense. They know when the words don’t match the heart, mind, and gut of the person saying them. They are looking to the sponsors of the change to show confidence, be honest about the difficulty of the change journey, and to inspire them. Executive presence matters.
  2. “Own Your Words.” As a practitioner, one of the more important things that you can do is advise your sponsor on the messages that need to be delivered. You cannot deliver them on the sponsor’s behalf; nor should you “write the speech.” They need to come from the sponsor’s heart and gut, not just her head. They need to be strong and clear. They need to be consistent. They need to be heard often. And she can’t just say them; she has to be living them.
  3. “Hustle!” You’ve heard, and experienced, some form of the expression, “The shelf life of a sponsor’s attention is one day.” If this is an important change, one that requires leadership, your sponsor needs to be in it every day. She needs to be asking about it every chance she gets. She needs to be ensuring it is moving forward every chance she gets. She needs to hustle so that everyone remains focused on the change.
  4. “Don’t Confuse Process with Progress.” Just because the boxes are being checked, the deliverables are being delivered, the timelines and budgets are being adhered to…it doesn’t mean that real progress is taking shape. Ensure that your metrics are based on progress, not just process.
  5. “Skin in the Game.” Years ago I learned that “it isn’t a burning platform if the leadership has golden parachutes.” Your sponsor needs to have skin in the game to be a change leader. She needs to have both a personal and a professional stake in the outcome. Without skin in the game, she will play it half-heartedly at best.

How present with the change is your sponsor? Does she own her words? Does she hustle? Does she confuse process with progress? Does she have skin in the game? How are you going to let her know what she is doing right as a change leader? And, how are you going to let her know the ways in which she is undermining her change leadership? When are you going to have that conversation?