I have been fortunate enough to meet the most amazing people from many different countries and cultures. People who possess the courage to lead the way. People who are more afraid of doing nothing than of making hard and necessary changes. I have also seen how much they can struggle within their organizations. They must possess a unique robustness to resist doubts, face critical questions and ultimately overcome opposition to change.
Though it may seem obvious, the solution isn’t to grow the robustness to extremes, but rather to respect that the change agents are fragile and ensure that it’s fully acceptable, culturally and managerially, that they express vulnerability both in terms of themselves and their projects.
I’ve met change agents in many different contexts: through recruitment for various positions, when doing talent assessments, among my colleagues and in networking and customer meetings. Change agents are everywhere.
Some people are obvious change agents, others are less obvious, and some are altogether invisible. Depending on the task at hand, they are more or less visible depending on the sensitivity, integrity and ethics of the mission. Sometimes, there are projects that you must keep confidential until completion – tasks that require specific considerations.
You can find change agents in all recesses of a society and an organisation.
They evoke admiration and indignation, some support them and some work against them, they instil hope for the better and fear of exposure of weaknesses. They are surrounded by support, and they are all alone. All at the same time.
Therefore, now more than ever, we need change agents who possess the robustness, the competencies, the accountability, the dedication and the integrity to create positive change.
The task of being a change agent can often be very lonely. Consequently, the agents are more vulnerable. Their vulnerability is in their passion for ensuring improvements and they can be limited when they encounter opposition that clips their wings rather than lift them up and support the changes.
We need to acknowledge and focus on the fact that vulnerability as a personality trait is just as valuable and important as robustness.
In my view, vulnerability is the flipside of the coin of robustness. We become vulnerable and have to refuel our energy levels after we’ve been robust and dealt with many issues on our own – either because there’s been no support or because the task has been so comprehensive and confidential that only a few people have been informed and very few have been able to take on the responsibility.
Vulnerability increases when your energy runs out more quickly than you’ve been able to refuel. But this vulnerability is also an important part of any complete human being, including the change agent, and helps evolve your empathy before, during and after any change.
Therefore, if we would like to add more change agents and diversity in senior management, we need to ensure that the person behind the change has the support, firm backing and restitution needed, and we must ensure that vulnerability is considered a strength that we dare to openly discuss rather than a silenced weakness, which diminishes our confidence in succeeding.
Founder of the Global Voices project. Belongingness officer and an experienced People Executive.