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The Virginia Engineer's Guest Articles

Leadership in the Face of Change

July, 2008

Leadership in the Face of Change
By John Baker

“The only constant in the universe is change.” Greek philosopher, Heraclitus – 2,500 years ago

Considering society’s bottomless access to information, our non-stop exposure to stimuli beamed from around the world, and the unsettling aspects of a modern life lived in a global village, Heraclitus’ observation rings truer than ever. Everyday we do our best to manage as much uncertainty out of our lives as possible, but in the end, we can only control so much.

The “constant of change” is what generates the unrelenting stress in our lives. It gives us the sense that our well-being is under constant threat. When you feel this threat, the hypothalamus area of your brain revs like a hot rod; hormones secrete, the nervous system engages. Adrenaline hits the bloodstream like a fuel injection. Excessive cortisol is discharged into the body producing – if the infomercials are true – stubborn extra pounds. We never hit the “off” button and our “flight or fight” reactions become unremitting, resulting in the inability to cope with trivial matters and limiting our effectiveness to deal with change, reigniting the cycle.

But why is it some people act consistently strong in times of inconsistency? Why do some remain resilient despite negative odds? Why do some emerge as leaders despite the pressure? Some people seem to be more “ready” to both avail themselves of change and grasp opportunity amidst chaos, while others – equally affected by circumstances – are left paralyzed and diminished.