In The Arena

Oct 07, 2010 No Comments by

One of my favorite quotes of all time is attributed to US President Theodore Roosevelt.

“Teddy” spoke directly to Change Leaders, Change Agents and Receivers of Change when he said the following at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23, 1910:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”


Here’s what I suggest those involved in change can draw from Roosevelt’s words:

Change Leaders: Those who hold the highest levels of accountability for making change happen will have their critics – I can guarantee it. It will take a special level of confidence and a thick skin to hold your ground when those about you are bashing the change and questioning your leadership. Avoid holding a grudge against those who resist or resent that you are in charge… just execute your role as the leader the best way you now how and trust your team to have your back down in the trenches the way the Rough Riders had Teddy’s back on the battlefield.


Change Agents:  Those who do the hard work of guiding individual stakeholders into the future will also face resistance, but in a much more personal, day-to-day way. Roosevelt suggests that we really need to believe strongly in the cause we’re working for if we intend to weather that storm. We need to honestly want the change to succeed or we’ll have a very hard time helping others adapt. Remember, you were selected as a Change Agent because people look to you for knowledge & guidance, so don’t wait to get your questions answered. Any doubt on a Change Agent’s part will be magnified & give stakeholders a green light to resist further.


Receivers of Change:  Teddy Roosevelt knew what it was like to taste both victory and defeat.  During his life, he was a sickly child and an adventurous, athletic Bull Moose. He was a defeated politician and an effective US President.  He was ultimately the focus of hatred and adoration by millions of people. 

None of the things that made this man the icon he became would have happened if he had not repeatedly stuck his neck out.  When you are approached with a change – don’t ignore it or sit and wait to see what others will do. 

Have an opinion.

Be honest about what’s in it for you and where it rubs you the wrong way.

Don’t be timid about asking questions and don’t shrink away from taking a stand. 

It matters less whether you support the change or oppose it – but whether you take action. Adapt to the change or openly work to change the change for the better and you will contribute to shaping the future of your team, your organizaation and everyone you influence whether you see them or not.


Change Agent Skills, Change Communication, Change Execution, Change Leadership, Stakeholder Readiness, Team Dynamics

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I help people and teams succeed with big changes... never a dull moment!
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