Leadership is always topical; no matter where we turn, it seems we are surrounded by examples of leadership, sometimes good, sometimes bad, or at least according to our own assessment!
And if we extend this consideration to 'inspirational leadership', it’s likely that you will call to mind the names of many people whom you find inspirational, or maybe not so inspirational. The examples set by leaders is certainly a prominent (and topical) part of our social discourse, particularly as we navigate current social and economic challenges.
Leadership vs. Sponsorship
As a change management consultant and trainer, working across the public and private sector, I often reflect on the value that leaders bring to the project and programme domain as sponsors of change. Having been associated with Prosci, the leading international research organisation focussed on change management, since being certified as a practitioner by Prosci’s founder Jeff Hiatt in 2004, the topic of sponsorship, and more specifically, the impact of sponsorship on the successful outcomes of change projects has remained an ongoing topic of interest for me for almost 17 years. Tellingly, in all 11 of Prosci’s Best Practice Research studies over the last 20 years, active and visible sponsorship has remained the #1 contributor to the success of change projects.
The weight of 20 years of research on this topic is difficult to ignore, and so it’s not hard to make the case for the importance of active and visible sponsorship. Deeper exploration of this topic in Prosci’s Best Practice research provides an even more compelling consideration, namely the strong correlation between the effectiveness of sponsorship and the extent to which projects meet or exceed their objectives, as illustrated by the following excerpt from the latest edition of the bi-annual research study:
What constitutes effective sponsorship?
Effective sponsorship is as much about ‘being’ as it is about ‘doing’ – sponsors need to BE engaging and accessible, remain focussed on supporting those responsible for driving the changes they sponsor, and communicate their own support for the change as they interact with impacted stakeholders across the business.
These requirements place strong demands on the time of senior leaders who typically have a limited amount of that precious resource! Therefore, sponsors need support, primarily from change practitioners responsible for planning the interventions and events which they are required to headline, and also from the project managers who drive these respective initiatives.
In addition to the support of change and project managers, one of the critical activities which sponsors need to undertake is to build a coalition of sponsorship with other influential leaders across the organisation. The absence of this collective leadership support for change makes it extremely difficult to ensure that all the impacted people across the organisation receive the backing they need from those entrusted with steering their organisation towards mutually beneficial objectives.
So…when it comes to sponsorship, it certainly does not pay to go it alone! The support of your project and change manager together with a coalition of your peers will ensure that you are significantly more likely to be a successful sponsor. And this, in turn, will contribute to successful project outcomes.