Practical insights for leaders

How good are you at pushing through hard changes?

Leadership is often glamorised, but the hard truth is that the rewards and joy of leadership go hand-in-hand with uncomfortable demands and high-risk endeavours. I often work with leaders who have to guide their organisations through difficult change. It is easy to get derailed in this process; change is often seen as painful and unsettling by those directly affected, which makes the change-maker public enemy number one. This calls for leaders to have a strategy to manage both their hostile environment and their own vulnerabilities. More below.

Olivia Meyrick, Founder & Executive Coach, Cadence


READ: A Survival Guide for Leaders |Heifetz & Linsky | HBR (20 mins)

This timeless ‘survival guide’ offers leaders a number of techniques for protecting themselves as they lead change initiatives. It offers tactical advice about managing their environment – the organisation and the people in it – to minimise threats to their leadership, and manage themselves by avoiding self-destructive behaviour during difficult change. Heifetz calls for leaders to “get on the balcony”, keep the “heat at an appropriate level”, “contain the system”, keep their “ego in check”, and “manage themselves”.



Ron Heifetz and his colleagues gave us the analogy of the leadership requirement to be both on the ‘dance floor’ in the heat of action and also on the ‘balcony’ looking down at the dance floor to gain more perspective. 

Step 1: Think of a complex challenge you are facing.  Gain perspective by going up to the balcony and looking down at the problem from above. 
Step 2: With this vantage point, ask yourself, what’s really going on here?  What is the broader ‘system’ view? What patterns do you notice? What are the emerging challenges and opportunities? 
Step 3: What would help you move between the balcony and the dance floor more easily in the future?


No one is saying that any of this is easy. That is why successful organisational change is the exception rather than the norm!