The Art of Being a Changemaker: How to do it and Why it Matters

April 13, 2017

Deke Copenhaver

Leadership Focus is written by Deke Copenhaver, Principal with Copenhaver Consulting LLC. The former mayor of Augusta, a triathlete, writer and runner, Deke is focused on transforming great ideas into great actions.
Throughout my life I’ve always admired changemakers willing to courageously stand up and make a difference in a world where it’s all too easy to remain in the comfort zones our daily lives can often afford us. Through personal experience, I’ve found that being a changemaker is challenging (to say the least) as a willingness to take a leap of faith and stand out from the crowd makes you an easy and convenient target for those who would prefer to stubbornly adhere to the status quo.

I remember being asked when I first made the decision to run for Mayor of Augusta back in 2005, “Why would you want to get mixed up in all of that when you don’t have to?” in reference to the often times messy business that is local government. My reply was simple: if no one ever tries to change things, things simply are never going to change.

At that point I was considered by some to be naïve, and by others to have lost my senses, and both camps were probably right to some degree. However I took a leap of faith and believed in my heart that my community would embrace an alternative to “politics as usual.” After nine years in office, I’m hopeful that most would say our city is a better place for it.

Whether it’s in business, government or any other sector, changemakers are simply a necessity that society can’t do without. I consider myself blessed to live in a city to have been impacted dramatically by no shortage of this type of dynamic individual to use as inspiration for my own efforts. Augusta is a place where the sport of golf’s legendary Bobby Jones looked out on a nursery and saw a golf course that would become home to the Masters Tournament, which continues to revolutionize the game to this very day. It’s also a city where a musical genius by the name of James Brown looked at a musical scale and saw a funky beat that would influence generations of musicians who came after him.

Being a changemaker will never be anything for the weak of heart. It takes time, discipline and a willingness to forego conventional wisdom in a way that most people could never imagine. Yet there’s nothing more important than taking an opportunity to become the change you want to see and committing yourself to being a changemaker in whatever endeavor you undertake. With this in mind, here are five focus points I’ve learned through experience that will help to initiate a positive change for the better with whatever you do.
1.) Bring a road map
Change is never easy and if you can’t tell someone where it will lead them, you’ll never be able to guide them in a new direction. Before you set out on a change making effort, always know the path and be able to provide the road map and the underpinnings of where you’re headed.
2. Always expect setbacks
Overcoming a culture takes time and a great deal of patience and persistence. Nothing happens overnight and you’ll undoubtedly have setbacks. That’s always to be expected. Just remember to keep moving forward.
3.) Always keep to the high ground
The ability to stand for something and to rise above the naysayers as opposed to simply standing against something sets you apart. An oppositional position to a new idea is easy while a positive position is much more difficult to maintain over time. Stay the course and continue a positive belief in the change you’re promoting.
4.) Commit to the long haul
Change will never come through moral platitudes or simple fixes. It takes time and a complete commitment to enacting it long beyond the timeframe you’ve ever imagined. A focus on planting seeds that will come to fruition long after you’ve set about fulfilling your ideals is a key to making it happen.
5.) Always under promise and over deliver
Great speeches about change for the better are nice but they always fail if they don’t deliver on their promise. As a changemaker, believe in your role but also realize what you say matters and never exceed through words what you’re unable to exceed through actions. No one person can do anything alone and it will always take you inspiring others to make an impact.

In the end, being a changemaker means being someone who’s able to inspire others, being able to adapt to the changes around you, and being able to become the change you want to see happen. 

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