Progressive Change: Choose Growth to Move Beyond The Status Quo

The need for progressive change in leadership has never been more critical. With a rapidly evolving business landscape, staying still or clinging to the status quo is the lesser option. Rather, agile thinking is the call to action – to lead progressive change beyond the status quo. On the heels of E&Y’s announcement naming Janet […]
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The need for progressive change in leadership has never been more critical. With a rapidly evolving business landscape, staying still or clinging to the status quo is the lesser option. Rather, agile thinking is the call to action – to lead progressive change beyond the status quo.

On the heels of E&Y’s announcement naming Janet Truncale as the firm’s new Global Chief Executive, replacing Carmine Di Sibio starting July 2024, Truncale commented, “The pace of transformation in 2024 will make 2023 look like a warm-up.” We see a ton of change ahead, she added. Her message indicates a global tone that will impact leaders and businesses across the world on multiple key issues, whether AI, sustainability, ESG and others. Truncale’s message also supports the essence of this article which brings into focus a practical issue faced by many organizations.

How to lead progressive change beyond the status quo.

Let’s explore how status quo bias impacts leadership and business. The first step is making the commitment to move beyond the status quo. Yet too often, status quo bias subconsciously hijacks a leader’s good “change” intentions, instead thwarting progress and meaningful change. However, this bias can and must be managed. Why?

Because choosing to lead progressive change cultivates growth and value creation for the leader, the organization, and those whom the business serves.

Status Quo Bias – The Enemy of Progressive Change

Status quo bias is one of over 200 cognitive and emotional biases that I refer to as ‘mind knots’. Mind knots are preconceptions or mental shortcuts that subconsciously steer us toward a tendency – usually compromising good thinking, judgment, and optimal decision-making. Status quo bias does just this.

This bias causes individuals and organizations to prefer that things stay the same, resulting in a resistance to change. When status quo bias is prominent within a leader or a business environment, any change from the baseline or status quo is considered to be a loss – and that’s the problem.

This bias ties individuals and organizations to the comfort of familiarity. A departure from the status quo elicits a natural aversion to loss – of what is easy, comfortable and familiar. The uncertainty that change might bring, even when the current state no longer serves the leader or organization well, keeps those with a prominent status quo bias staying in place.

Change is inevitable. Growth is Optional. – John C. Maxwell

The Key Problem: No progress. No change. No growth.

A strong status quo bias hinders or halts change and significantly impacts leadership and organizational growth and innovation. Leaders who fall prey to this bias can overlook new opportunities in favor of resisting change. They can even fail to address emerging challenges effectively.

Resistance to change leads to stagnation. And stagnation leaves organizations tied to strategies, plans, and practices that may no longer be relevant. Unmanaged, status quo bias influences leaders to choose to stay still when everything around them is moving and changing. Status quo bias can significantly hinder the leader, and the organization’s ability to compete and thrive in a dynamic business environment that is ever-changing.

A status quo mindset is a fixed mindset – the opposite of a growth mindset. Recognizing, understanding and managing status quo bias is crucial for leaders to lead with agility and adaptability. With awareness of this bias, and having strategies to manage it, leaders can drive progressive change and growth for themselves, their organization, and their business.

Progressive Change: A Leadership Imperative

Progressive change refers to a forward-thinking approach that embraces evolution and innovation in both personal and organizational contexts. It’s characterized by a willingness to challenge the status quo, encouraging a growth mindset that seeks a better future state.

Progressive change is more than adapting to external changes in the market, industry or life. Rather, it is a commitment to proactively seek opportunities to advance and grow – recognizing that what worked in the past may no longer be relevant or sufficient for the future. Progressive change is about envisioning an improved future state, and being open to new ideas and strategies to achieve it. It is a dynamic process that begins with a vision. This growth-oriented change demands adaptability, creative thinking, and the focus and commitment to learn, evolve, and grow by creating meaningful value.

In sharp contrast to a status quo or fixed mindset, a growth mindset is demonstrated by making the choice to lead progressive change—whether on a personal level or as a leader driving organizational transformation. It marks a pivotal step towards cultivating growth along multiple dimensions.

Progressive change is a proactive journey. For individual leaders, it means embracing personal development, challenging assumptions, and being open to new thinking, perspectives and opportunities. In the broader organizational context, it entails fostering a culture where change is not just accepted but encouraged. Then, forward-looking change will allow new ideas to flourish – continually challenging the status quo.

Progressive change is a reshaping process that cultivates and nurtures growth for everyone involved. It is an intentional path to evolution, improvement, and growth. It paves the way for stronger leadership and organizational positioning in a constantly changing environment.

Vision and Anticipating Future Trends and Challenges

Crucial leadership aspects of proactively shaping the future are clear vision, and the ability to anticipate future trends and challenges. Progressive leaders are agile visionaries. Their growth mindset enables an understanding of the current state, and importantly, anticipation of potential challenges and opportunities that may lie ahead on the journey to the future state they envision.

Leaders with this ability can steer their organizations effectively by seeing with clear eyes, and preparing for setbacks before they happen. With informed strategic plans and decisions that account for potential scenarios, these leaders keep their organizations agile and adaptable.

Anticipating future trends and challenges, requires a blend of analytical skills, intuitive understanding, and a keen awareness of their external environment. And, progressive leaders are distinguished by their commitment to identifying opportunities for innovation and growth, while also preparing to mitigate risks and challenges that might arise. This forward-thinking approach is essential for maintaining relevance and forereaching in leadership, business, and in life.

Proactive Problem-Solving, Creative Thinking and Innovative Solutions

To lead progressive change effectively, leaders need cognitive flexibility, which is defined as the mental ability to not simply toggle their thinking between different concepts, but to think about multiple concepts simultaneously. Cognitive flexibility is a cornerstone of proactive problem-solving. It allows leaders to approach challenges from various perspectives to arrive at the most innovative and optimal solutions.

In leadership and in life, having the ability to think creatively and generate out-of-the-box solutions is invaluable. Cognitive flexibility enables us to shape forward-thinking solutions that drive progressive change away from the status quo and toward a vision.

Progressive Change and Technology

Technology is a vital enabler to progressive change. And leaders who drive progressive change quickly leverage its potential and regard technology as a catalyst for transformation and innovation. They integrate technology proactively into their strategies. A leader who fosters a culture where technology and experimentation are valued, understands that progressive change requires elevating capabilities that open new paths to innovation and growth. Progressive leaders view technology as a connector and integrator of current capabilities and future possibilities.

Sustainability and Long-term Impact

Leading progressive change necessitates a keen sensitivity to a bigger and broader view. In business, this requires integrating the principles of sustainability into decision-making processes. And this approach requires going beyond what is known as a “present bias.” This bias sways a leader’s focus to the current state and short-term gains. A sustainability-oriented mindset challenges leaders to evaluate how the decisions they make and actions they take today will impact the organization and its long-term mission.

Progressive leaders understand the health and positioning of their leadership and business is intrinsically linked to the value they create across the markets and ecosystem in which they operate. Progressive change initiatives can position these leaders as pivotal in driving change that secures a legacy of positive impact, for themselves, their organization, the business ecosystem they serve.

Learning and Development

The symbiotic relationship between learning, development, and progressive change is fundamental. Progressive leaders recognize that their commitment to proactive change, drives learning and development across the enterprise – cultivating growth for individuals within the organization and for the business. A commitment to organizational learning and development strengthens an organization’s preparedness and positioning for new challenges, new opportunities, and a reshaped future.

Progressive change also creates a culture of curiosity and resilience, where learning from successes and failures alike is valued. Then, quite naturally, the pursuit of knowledge, new capabilities, and new ways of working become a driving force behind the change journey, resulting in growth for the leader, the organization and the business.

It always seems impossible until it’s done. – Nelson Mandela

Practical Actions and Strategies for Leading Progressive Change

While agile thinking and cognitive flexibility lay the foundation, leading progressive change comes back to key practical elements including a vision, supported by a fluid strategy and plan. And most importantly, a commitment to action and focused execution including:

  1. Goal Setting and Alignment: Establish clear, realistic goals that embody the principles of progressive change, and also align with the organization’s mission.
  2. Flexible Planning: Develop strategies that are adaptable and can evolve in response to changing circumstances – not only planning for foreseeable challenges but also building in contingencies for unexpected roadblocks.
  3. Open Communication: Transparent and continuous communication is a must. Encourage feedback and collaborative idea generation to ensure all voices are heard and valued.
  4. Training and Development: Promote ongoing learning and development opportunities. Then, you equip you and your team with the necessary mindset, skills and knowledge to drive progressive change.
  5. Performance Measurement: Implement effective tools and metrics to monitor progress and impact. Ensure a regular review of metrics to assess the effectiveness of strategies to make data-driven adjustments.
  6. Lead by Example: Embody the change you wish to see. Demonstrate the behaviors, attitudes, and values that reflect the organization’s commitment to progressive change.
  7. Encourage Progressive Change and Growth: Develop a culture that values and rewards innovation, creative problem-solving, and importantly progressive change. Celebrate experimentation and risk-taking, even when it leads to failure because failure represents golden opportunities for learning, progress, and growth.

Whether in leadership or in life, leading progressive change is a choice you must make. The alternative is defaulting to the status quo, leaving you in the vulnerable position of having to manage through reactive change.

Conclusion

John Maxwell eloquently articulated, “Unlike change, which is inevitable, growth is a choice.” And, the question for you to answer is whether you will default to status quo bias until the inevitability of change forces you to react, or whether you will take the lead, and choose to lead a progressive change journey, and the strategic choice of growth, for you, your organization, and your business.

Remember, managing status quo bias is key to progressive change. Recognizing this bias and having strategies to navigate is essential because status quo is not a sustainable strategy. Sometimes people see status quo as a form of “stability.” However, unforeseen change will eventually rear its head, proving stability is as vulnerable as the status quo. Neither will position you or your organization for sustainability, or for growth.

So, will you take the lead, or you will be led by the status quo bias. The choice is yours to make.

Choosing to progress and grow is a decision leaders must consciously make for themselves, their organization, and their business. It’s about taking a position beyond adapting to change, and instead actively leading progressive change and shaping the future through a series of strategic, innovative, and sustainable actions. It’s about choosing progress and growth every time.

Final Thoughts

So, ask yourself, at this time next year, looking back at this year, what progressive change will you have led that will make you proud of your progress and growth story?

What can you do today to launch your progressive change journey and growth story?


LeaderEdge© is an email newsletter delivering timeless and timely insights, ideas, intel, and frameworks you can use to sharpen your leadership edge.

I provide perspectives from thought leaders on topics that impact leadership and business. LeaderEdge also includes practical insights gleaned from the many leaders and organizations with whom I have partnered – who inspire my work, help me sharpen my edge – and can help you sharpen yours.

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Lisa Tromba, Founder, Leadership Intelligence Services
and Co-Founder, Luisi Tromba Advisors / Executive Search

Lisa@luisitromba.com or Lisa@leadershipintell.com


As an executive recruiter and value partner to my clients, my life’s work is helping organizations and leaders to advance missions and achieve outcomes together – through clear thinking, reasoning, and evidence-based decision-making in leadership choices. My work is focused on aligning leaders who are uniquely positioned to the uniqueness of a situation.

The advantage is leadership edge.

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