A Reflection on the Hardness of Change

Now and then, I feel the need to have a little rant.  Luckily, for us all, it doesn’t happen that often. Today’s little rant is about change.

Whenever I think of the challenge of change, I think of Sally Field, well, not Sally Field exactly, her character, Norma Rae. I picture Norma, all five feet of her, standing on a table with her arms held high, holding a sign that simply says “Union”.  She stands on that table in defiance of her bosses, and on behalf of her often frightened and reluctant co-workers.  She does it because deep inside herself she knows it to be right.  It’s worth fighting for. It’s worth the risk. It will make life better in the end.  I notice her face as she’s standing there.  I see rebellion, fear and desperation.  And yet she stands there until the local police come and drag her away kicking and screaming. Take a little time to watch this and you’ll see what I mean.

That’s the thing about change, the revolutionary kind anyway.  It’s hard and scary and sometimes involves some kicking and screaming. That sort of change is rarely the kind we eagerly put our hands up for.  That’s when leadership and those who practice it are truly tested.

Today, there are those of us who long for a time when our world could be like it was before our global economy took a frightening plunge.  There are people without jobs who have lost their houses and the way of life they have become accustomed to.  To so many, it feels, and is, catastrophic and terrifying.   There are others who are less affected directly and see no reason to change their habits or their perspectives, those who fail to see that they are part of the problem…and part of the solution.

The job of leadership in times such as these requires the kind of grit that Norma Rae showed as she climbed upon her table and stood her ground.  In these times, change means hard work, hard heads, hard times and tender hearts.   And it’s not about one or two people leading everyone else out of the wilderness either.  We are all responsible.  We must all find a new way of being in the world.  Those who lead  will have a vision of the future.  They will put themselves forward to be followed; to be challenged; to be criticized; and sometimes to be scorned but they will each stand on their respective tables with their vision of better times held firmly in their hands.

The good ones will not make promises to bring back the past.  They will not waste their time, or ours, denigrating each other.  Instead, they will hold a firm vision of how things could be should we choose to act differently.  They will find ways to work together and to include us all by demanding our participation in building something else, something better…just like Norma Rae did.



Filed under Change Management, communication, Establishing Direction, Leadership Vision, Leading Change

7 responses to “A Reflection on the Hardness of Change

  1. Gwyn, what a wonderfully inspiring post. I recently decided to run for a board position of a professional organization because I knew it was the right thing to do. I’d been on the board for several years in the past, and could see that change wasn’t happening fast enough in the most recent years. The organization has lost membership because of it.

    The board was quite surprised to see my name on the ballot. But, I knew that you have no right to complain about a situation if you don’t roll up your shirtsleeves and try to do what you can about it. It’s scary, but I plan to do my best.

    Thank you for your writing. It’s always wonderful and thought-provoking.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Mary Jo, I applaud your courage and determination.
      You are of course, right. If we choose not to participate, we lose our right to complain about how things are. I’m thinking that this Board will be lucky to have you and that when the time comes, you will stand on the table (metaphorically speaking of course) and have no trouble being heard! I’ll even make the sign for you 🙂

      Thank you for sharing your story. I’d wish you luck but you won’t need it. You have all you need.

  2. Gwyn,
    Great rant…Looking forward to the next one.
    I loved your point about all of us should be responsible to lead. My guess is that all of us accept responsibility for leading at least one person, whether it is a friend, child, or business colleague.

    I’m wondering what factors we consider in rating the quality of our leadership? Are the factors different, depending upon who we lead, i.e. friend, child, or business colleague?

    • Gwyn Teatro


      I rather think the proof of the quality of our leadership often shows up in the faces and lives of those we lead. In other words, if we can say that through our leadership, our friends, children, colleagues etc have accomplished something of importance to them, or become people who are well regarded, then that, to me, is a reasonable indicator of success. And, it usually feels good too.

      What do you think?

      Thank you for coming by 🙂

  3. Terry Thomas

    Hi Gwyn

    So many of your posts (or rants) strike a chord with me. As I read this one, I thought about the paper I wrote last week. My school assignment was to write a policy paper in support of the health reform law. I tried to present a balanced view and relate personal changes with policy changes in the paper titled From
    Unhealthy to Healthy. No matter people’s personal views, change is inevitable. We may not know what the future will bring, though we are not going back to whatever we had in the past. It would be an honor if you would allow me to share my closing statement about personal/public policy
    Our society must reform unhealthy habits and attitudes today, to celebrate a healthy tomorrow!
    Here’s to all of us working – and leading – the way to healthier and happier days ahead. : )

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Terry,

      No one could have said it better. Thank you for sharing a part of your paper here.
      I also share your wish and intent to contribute to our achievement of better days.

      Thank you for coming by!

  4. Pingback: NOW Not Only for Women Leadership Carnival December | Geronimocoaching's Blog

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