You Can’t Create Change Without Tension

Why are you shying away from leading change?


Most people fall on one side of the spectrum or the other when it comes to change: they either love to pioneer it, or they’re afraid of it. The truth behind why that is, says marketing guru Seth Godin, is tension. Some people thrive on tension and others avoid it at all costs. But to enact change and lead a team through change, leaders must be brave and lean into the tension.

“By bringing tension to the world, by being willing to be present when other people were uncomfortable, that is when [leaders] make change,” says Seth. Tune into the video to hear Seth’s other insight on the inextricable link between change and tension.

So we must ask ourselves the question, "Who is it for? What is it for?" Because if you do not know who you are trying to change, you are hiding from the change you are trying to make.

Change has a twin sister, and her name is tension. We've all been trained to avoid tension, to diffuse tension, to figure out how to create a little bit less tension. But you cannot make change happen without also making tension happen. So I want to share with you five basic concepts of the bravery of our future. And the first one is tension.

In 1955 Ella Fitzgerald, the great American jazz singer, went to Houston, Texas. She went with Illinois Jacquet and a few other musicians to put on an integrated show of music. And she intentionally went to Houston to perform to an integrated audience to create tension.

Backstage between the first set and the second set, the Houston police broke into her dressing room and arrested her and everyone else in the troupe for playing dice in their dressing room. But of course they weren't arrested for playing dice. They were arrested for causing tension that some people couldn't bear.

They took them down to the booking. Fortunately, they got back in time for the second show. But Ella understood something had happened that day. By bringing tension to the world, by being willing to be present when other people were uncomfortable, that is when she could make change.

Seth Godin

Seth Godin is the author of 17 books that have been best-sellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, The Dipand Purple Cow.

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