The Roots of Change


Take a Moment

  • Reflect on your personal history and list ten significant changes that have happened in your life.
    • What were they and why did they happen?
    • Were they successful?
    • How did you feel about each when it was happening?
    • Why were your positive experiences positive?
    • Why were your negative experience negative?
  • What can you learn about change from your experiences?


Take a Moment

  • Review Nehemiah’s experience.
    • What steps did he take to bring about the necessary change in Judah/Jerusalem?
  • How does that compare to your experience of change?

Change Initiators

As we observed earlier there seem to be three key initiators of change.


One thing that is constant in the world in which live is change. It happens all the time all around us. Some external changes have no effect upon us, some have massive impacts. Sometimes we can see what is going on but on other occasions it can be more difficult to understand.

When external change impacts us we usually have to respond in some way with our own journey of change. We can try to hold our ground but often, when we do, we get knocked down.  This is true both personally and organisationally. The real danger comes when, for whatever reason, we refuse to change when change is absolutely necessary. Such inertia can have devastating consequences.

As Christ-centred servant leaders our role is to lead others through such times.


Whilst a change in external circumstances may force change upon us, like it or not, sometimes we are the initiators of change.  We see an opportunity and decide to take it. But in order to reap the rewards of the opportunity we must engage in a journey of change. To achieve the goal, the servant leader must collaboratively take his team with him on this journey as willing, committed volunteers. Even when the team willingly volunteers, it does not mean that the journey will be any less of a challenge.


In the context of the Kingdom, God is working out his plans and purposes and frequently engages Christians in that process. When this happens we often refer to being “called” to a role or task. Often, whatever is to be achieved can only be achieved with the help of others who must choose to embark on the journey. This journey is also one of change and can be every bit as challenging as any other. Again, the role of the Christ-centred servant is to lead others on that journey of change.

The Servant Leader’s Goal

As Christ-centred servant leaders we must keep in sight our primary goals:

  • To enable others to achieve their full potential in God’s service.
  • To live out in grace the servant character of Christ as we do so.


So leading change is not about the leader’s position and status but it is at least as much about others as it is about achieving the objective.

The Collaborative Journey

The Christ-centred servant leader seeks to develop and maintain high levels of collaboration amongst those whom he leads.  This requires high levels of trust and results in team members being prepared to defer their personal goals and objectives in favour of those of the whole team. They recognise that when the team succeeds together they also succeed individually. Such levels of collaboration are essential to successfully negotiate a journey of change.

Engaging and Empowering Others

Such levels of collaboration require that all those who have embarked on the journey be aligned and committed to the goals of the journey. Such alignment is only achieved when the voyagers own the journey because have been involved in defining its purpose and end point, and are empowered to contribute.  The Christ-centred servant leader works hard to include the wisdom of those whom are led and foster their complete ownership of the goal.

Leadership and Management

In Reflections on Leadership (part two of the first module – The Jesus Model) we examined the difference between management and leadership. We saw that management are leadership are not the same. The paradox we saw is that they are almost complete opposites but are both absolutely essential to an organisation.

Management is about maintaining course in a consistent manner with consistent results. It’s about maintaining stability. Whereas leadership is about moving from one place to another –a journey – and so it is inherently about new things, about vision and change. Whereas management is about process and repeatability.

The Christ-centred servant leader’s goal is to enable those whom are led to grow, to develop and mature and achieve their full potential. When this happens the organisation also reaps the benefits; who wouldn’t want all of their staff achieving their full potential. However, this is inherently a journey of change and therefore leadership.

If management techniques are used to bring about change it will never happen because they are not about a vision and the subsequent journey of change. They are about stability and consistency which minimises change. Thus, if the guidance of a change programme is handed over to management approaches part way through the change process will be stifled. This because management is essentially about stability and consistency.

Both leadership and management approaches are required in a change process but the management approaches are employed to achieve specific goals not maintain the vision and guide the journey.

Emotional Intelligence and Change

The problem with change is that individuals respond differently. Some people are inherently change-averse, it’s their character, while others seem to thrive on change.

The Christ-centred servant leader focusses on others and must relate to each person as an individual. In Leading with Insight we examined emotional intelligence, the skill of being aware of one’s self and others. With such an awareness people are able to relate to individuals as individuals, on a personal level. Consequently the relationships can also achieve their potential.

When it comes to change it is clear that individuals behave differently. Some are crushed while some thrive but, in most cases of change no one should be left behind.

In his book “Change Directions” Dr David Cormack provides some insight. He observes four attitudes to change:

The Radical Attitude

The Radical Attitude loves change so much that they would change everything to make it better. They love to pioneer change. By definition, if it’s new and different it must be better. They see people with a Traditional Attitude  (see below) as being reactionaries; that is they oppose progress.

The Progressive Attitude

The Progressive Attitude likes the idea of pioneering change but prefers a slower pace of change. It considers that most things could be improved but not everything must change. They find change exciting as long as the risks are low.

The Conservative Attitude

The Conservative Attitude is suspicious of the Radical and feels that most change is threatening. They concede that some things need some change to fine tune them.

The Traditional Attitude

The Traditional Attitude sees all change as threatening and perceives the Radical as a dangerous revolutionary. Everything is OK apart from that which has just been changed. Let’s go back to how it was before.

In any population there is a distribution of these attitudes as shown in the diagram. Cormack makes an interesting observation that the level of noise made by these groups, that is the volume of their support or complaint, seems to be inversely proportional to their numbers. There are fewer Radicals and Traditionalists, but they are the activists and make sure their voice is heard.

There is a silent majority whose attitudes are somewhere between the Progressive and the Conservative.

The Progressive/Conservative Attitude (Silent Majority)

The people with this attitude understand the necessity for change and would encourage the Traditionalists to change and the Radicals to be cautious because not all change is good. Apart from this they are normally silent unlike the Radicals and Traditionalists.

The emotionally intelligent Christ-centred servant leader will be aware of the differences and will adopt an appropriate approach to each. After all it is quite obvious that treating individual Radicals and Traditionalists in the same way will not get very far.

The leader must recognise that the volume level from the Radicals and the Traditionalists is louder than that from the Progressive/Conservative silent majority. See the diagram. However, it is important that the silent majority are not overlooked and are enabled to buy-in to any change programme.

Take a Moment

  • Which of the five types best describes your attitude to change?
    • Does it vary according to the issue?
    • Note down some specific examples.
  • How do you react to people of the other four attitude types?
    • Note down some specific examples.
  • As a Christ-centred servant leader, how do you think you should respond to each of the attitude types, including your own?