Don’t Hire That Change Agent!

Photograph by Andy Ryan/Getty Images

I can understand an executive’s temptation to hire a shake-’em-up Change Agent when big things need to happen. But haven’t we learned through harsh experience that this strategy backfires 99 percent of the time? Leaders hire Change Agents—charismatic people with blue-chip credentials and backbones of steel (we hope)—and watch them fail within a year. The patron saint of Change Agents could only be Saint Sebastian, whose portraits always show him pierced by arrows. What is it about the Change Agent approach that causes things to go so badly, so often?

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