Managing change can be difficult and it takes thoughtful approaches to leadership and planning to effectively execute. For a leader, preparing an organization for change can be a daunting task. Moreover, when considering the various models for change and the number of variables that need to be considered in implementing change, this task can further be overwhelming. Both preparation and implementation require leadership to provide a supportive atmosphere for change, making leadership a vital role in change management.
For change to be effectively implemented within an organization, a readiness to embrace the change is integral. The readiness of an organization can highly depend on the leadership. Typically, when an organization is looking to change in some way, two primary questions come to mind. First to consider, does the organization have the resources needed to make a successful change? The second, are the people in the organization willing to change? I would argue that the former is much easier to find out, than the latter. This is why leadership plays a large a role in change management. Weiner (2009) when talking about an organizations readiness for change, states that the members of the organization need to have a “shared resolve to pursue the courses of action involved in change implementation” and “shared beliefs in their collective capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action involved in change implementation” (p. 2). This common vision is tied directly to the role of leadership. The motivation of employees may vary, but a shared sense of confidence and belief in the ability to carry out the change is imperative. In this case, the leadership plays a large role in creating this atmosphere. From having the right vision, creating buy-in, continually hiring the right staff, building trust, demonstrating confidence in self and others, along with competence are a part of this leadership role. Lastly, vital to the change process, is having a leader with strong communication, for staff to feel prepared for change.
Leadership also extends to the actual implementation of change. Just as employee readiness is shaped by the atmosphere created by leadership, employees may look to leaders to set an example. All change models emphasize the need for a change in human behaviour. Al-Haddad & Kotnour (2015) state that “change management processes assist in making change part of the organizational culture” (p. 248). Thus, leaders can model how change will be integrated and what is expected during this transition. Moreover, those in the roles of implementing the change will have to connect with people impacted by the change at all levels. A leader must also understand that the right change methods must be matched with the right type of change for people to be empowered to make choices resulting in desired outcomes.
Many change management models such as the CHANGE model and the Luecke method, emphasize the role of leadership. Within step 3 of the CHANGE model, there is a focus on motivating employees and building acceptance of the change by showing leadership commitment (Biech, 2007). The Luecke model leans on leadership to help develop a shared vision of the change to come (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015). In my experience, the type of change and context may play a significant role in the model of change that a leader utilizes. For example, in a previous place of employment, I worked in a context where a significant change was to occur due to cut in funding, resulting in job loss and job restructuring. Within this context, the leaders needed to deploy a change model that focused on group morale and clear information sharing similar to the CHANGE model. In another work context, my job role was created as a result of change, a decision which was received with mixed responses from others. In this case, it was important for leadership to emphasize how my role could be valuable and to help others to accept change, like within the Luecke model.
In reflecting on managing change, it is important to consider the diverse models of change that can be used to effectively lead. Through this process, ensuring transparency, buy in, clear communication and driving a desired organizational culture are integral. As I reviewed the various change models and intersect this learning with leadership approaches, I believe that taking a context-specific and nuanced approach depending on a variety of factors, is crucial for effective change management.
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. DOI 10.1108/JOCM-11-2013-0215
Biech, E. (2007). Models for Change. In Thriving Through Change: A Leader’s Practical Guide to Change Mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD [Retrieved from Skillsoft e-book database]
Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(67). https://doi.org/10.1186/1748-5908-4-67