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Danielle Strickland: This Is What Influential Leaders Know About Transformational Change

danielle strickland

“If we want to be leaders of influence that really bring change to the world, we don’t need to just move things around. We need to find the right things to change,” said author and pastor Danielle Strickland, speaking on the first day about transformational change at the Global Leadership Summit 2019 (GLS).

Leaders and Transformational Change

In her talk, Strickland emphasized two primary points for leaders who want to bring about transformational change. First, leaders must focus on making the correct changes. 

To illustrate what she meant, Strickland told the story of a man she met in Rwanda who had experienced transformational change. He compared his life to a tree and said he realized, “I had to confront fruit that was growing out of my life that I didn’t like.” That fruit was the brokenness in his family driven by his authoritarianism. He came to realize that the root of his abusive behavior came from something his father had told him as a teenager, namely that being a man meant wielding control over his family to ensure obedience.

But when the man considered other men in his life that he respected, he realized those men valued relationships, connection and respect. So the man realigned his beliefs and values and, as a result, started being kinder to his wife and children. His family was completely transformed. The change in his family dynamic impacted the families around them, and domestic violence went down in the whole community.

But what was crucial in that situation was the Rwandan man identified the correct problem. Strickland contrasted his situation with that of another man she met whose life was dominated by stress. That man tried to deal with his stress by simply increasing his medication. That was managing change, said Strickland, not accomplishing transformation. True transformation would have required the man to do the hard work of recognizing that his value was not based on his productivity. “Leadership changes don’t always work if they’re not the right ones,” she observed. 

Secondly, said Strickland, “It’s not enough to know what to change. You have to embrace the process to change it.” And that process is always messy. Strickland compared being in the middle of transformational change to trying to stand on an inflatable exercise ball. It feels chaotic and unstable, and it is impossible to do without assistance from someone else. 

Strickland pointed to Peter’s vision in Acts 10 as an illustration of the discomfort of the process of transformational change. Peter was Jewish and therefore refrained from eating certain animals because they are unclean. But God told him, through a vision, that he may eat any animal.

It was a dramatic change God was implementing, and Peter resisted it at first because it was new and uncomfortable. However, he eventually accepted what God showed him, which went far beyond changing what foods His people may eat. Rather, God was revealing to Peter that He does not show favoritism to any group of people, but accepts anyone who trusts in Him. 

In the same way, for us as leaders, Strickland said, “One encounter can change everything if you change the right thing.”

For more content on the 2019 Global Leadership Summit, please see:

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