Leaders play a critical role in the success of organizational change. Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015 asserted that planning for change and addressing critical factors in the change process promotes success. Leaders are responsible for planning and addressing critical factors in a project. In fact, leaders have three main responsibilities when leading a change initiative. They are responsible for (a) communicating and sharing information with all employees, (b) building commitment to the cause; and (c) creating and sustaining a vision for the future. According to Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015 the success rate of change initiatives is less than 30%. Leaders have the opportunity to affect change and increase the success rate of change initiatives through their communication, commitment and creation of a sustainable vision for the future.
A leader is responsible for communicating project related information with all employees in the organization and specifically those who are involved in the ongoing change management project. Communicating information regarding the upcoming changes creates a sense of readiness among employees. Leaders must consistently communicate information through social interaction and shared experiences with employees (Weiner, 2009). As an employee, I want to know the facts and I want to be kept up to date on the project. When I am informed and knowledgeable, I am motivated to participate and give 150% effort toward the project. Leaders must communicate in an ethical manner. This is defined as communicating clearly, listening to contrasting views and encouraging others to participate (Biech, 2007). A leader must walk the talk and from an ethical standpoint it includes being open and transparent. Leaders who are open and transparent, explain themselves, the circumstances, encourage others to participate and most importantly transparent communication includes listening to others. Leaders who communicate and share information not only create a sense of readiness but also these leaders behave ethically which builds trusting relationships. Trust and communication are the building blocks to establishing commitment from others.
Leaders are the driving force in organizational change. Through their persistence to the cause, leaders build commitment in others. The leader establishes commitment by strategically determining what to maintain, what to change and how to ensure employee buy-in is maintained throughout the change initiative (Biech, 2007). Employee buy-in is established when employees can visualize and understand the benefits of the project, how it will affect them, and what role they play in the change initiative. I participated in many projects and my commitment grew when I understood what my role was and how I could impact the end result. All employees want to be involved and employees want to feel as though they make a difference. When leaders communicate the process, they are in fact building a strong united group of employees (Biech, 2007) who will give of themselves and be committed to the initiative. In my experience, this commitment by employees can be described as working longer hours, working with a renewed focus and working with a sense of pride of ownership. Employees who are part of the change process not only feel supported by their leader, but also, they trust their leader. Employees follows leaders who have built commitment and who have a vision.
Leading with a vision is synonymous to leading at 30,000 feet. Leaders that view the current state by standing back and challenging today, are the leaders who can see or imagine a future state filled with innovation and change for tomorrow (Biech, 2007). Reviewing achievements of today and acknowledging that more can be realized in the future is one of the many ongoing responsibilities of a leader. According to Weihrich and Koontz (as cited in Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015) one of the main functions of leading people involves setting a vision and planning for the future. Throughout my career, the leaders that looked forward rather than backwards, were the ones’ I followed with inspiration and admiration. Leadership involves innovatively visioning the future.
When it comes to change and managing change initiatives, leaders must take a three-pronged approach to their responsibilities. They must lead with open and transparent communication, build commitment among employees and vision future innovations for success. Leaders who walk the talk with integrity and commitment have the opportunity to create a sustainable and innovative future for all.
Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: A model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 28(2), 234–262. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOCM-11-2013-0215
Biech, E. (2007). Thriving through change: A leader’s practical guide to change mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press. https://royalroads.skillport.com/skillportfe/assetSummaryPage.action?assetid=RW$1544:_ss_book:22651#summary/BOOKS/RW$1544:_ss_book:22651
Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1186/1748-5908-4-67