GALLUP: Why leaders don’t really want change

As examiner for my PhD I was very fortunate to have George Gallup. Dr Gallup was the inventor of market research and universally admired founder of The Gallup Poll at Princeton.

He wrote about why leaders have an in-built logical reluctance towards change in The Miracle Ahead (Harper & Row NY 1964):

Change cannot be brought about easily by leaders, except in those situations in which the changes advocated do not disturb the present relationships. In fact, it is the leaders who typically become the most bitter and the most effective foes of change.

The public must take the initiative and assume responsibility for progress in the affairs of man. The public must force change upon its leaders who command more respect today than perhaps they deserve. The leader is expert in his or her small world as it presently exists, not expert in the world as it might exist.

Although the leader plays an important part in modern society, it is not realistic to expect him or her to advocate change. This is the surest way for that leader to lose his or her status. The hope of the future rests with the citizen also known as, the customer.

To be effective the citizen/customer must be well-informed, and she or he must discover better ways of making better use of her own great capacities and those of her friends. Citizens or customers cannot expect their leaders to give them much help in their upward march”.


QUESTION: In your own experience, as you look around at the leaders your life, do you find many agents of change or are most simply protectors of the status quo? Post your comment.

6 thoughts on “GALLUP: Why leaders don’t really want change

  1. Many corporate leaders verbally encourage their company and its employees to offer suggestions and ideas to improve sales and profits, but the reality is that most only want compliance to a top down corporate structure.

    Corporate structures need to focus on profitably meeting and exceeding customer’s expectations. Under the current format for corporate structures, you will not find the customer. What should be more alarming is usually the customer’s expectations and needs are considered last or located at the bottom the hierarchy of corporate thinking.

    The corporate format is not just about top management, but also front-line employees, suppliers and customers being directly involved in the decision making process. Successful business practices conduct business in a four-dimensional world, in hyperbolic space, where timing is a necessary fourth ingredient for getting and keeping the business. A company needs redesigned with flexibility to timely respond to their customers if they want to eliminate defective circular thinking and grow as intended. This requires the CEO and other officers to relinquish its strangle hold on how it does business. It requires a system that can automatically fine tune itself to a changing vision in the reality of what is the global economy to what is possible.

    John Quincy Adams said something very appropriate for today’s CEO’s. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

  2. Bit of a mixed bag really, some “leaders” are given that tag merely because of seniority, position or age. Real leaders are by definition agents of change and encourage growth and accept feedback/ideas, then motivate their peers to implement change.

  3. It is quite rare to find a leader who proposes change and follows through. But a small number exists and that is why we have boundary breaking organisations and companies.

  4. Some great leaders that I have encountered are dynamic and continue to pursue new opportunities; they also nurture others to do the same. They actually believe in change if it has been researched and shows great merit.

  5. I love this question. It is so confronting. There are times leaders advocate change but it defined in terms of self preservation. Real transformation comes from external threats. A condition of serious pain. Often those threats are ignored or challenged with sustaining strategies until it is too late. A reason why the average life of a publicly listed company has halved in the last decade. if the assumptions or conditions underpinning our success change then we must dig deep to understand the implications and pivot to take advantage of the new “rules”.That requires considerable disassociation with the existing solution.

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