Change Leadership- A Recipe for Leading Change
The pace of change in organizations, regardless of sectors, calls for a different type of leadership values and skills. According to Castelli (2016), the dynamic and fast-paced environment of the business requires reflective leadership that practices mindfulness, trust, and empathy. The traditional leadership practices of transactional, rewards and punishments, and top-down approaches may no longer be a viable solution to the dynamic and complex ecosystems of the digital era. The ability to be flexible, nimble, and agile to meet the growing demands of external factors (e.g. customer’s changing expectations, economic crisis, and public-funding constraints) require leaders to be adaptive. Hence, reflective and adaptive leadership complements each other. As organizations face the challenge of constant change in their environment due to technological advances and globalization (Castelli, 2016; Khan, 2017; Sheninger, 2019), leaders need to ask themselves the question, can we afford apathy and disinterest at work due to change fatigue? In this paper, I will discuss the recipe for change leadership, which incorporates the contemporary leadership theories, change approaches, and Kotter’s change model.
Kotter’s eight-step model provides leaders with a framework for change management. In my experience working in the healthcare sector, this model is frequently utilized to drive and implement organizational change, including in my area of education and training. The first step in Kotter’s eight-step model is to create a sense of urgency to motivate people to take action; however, others may take a passive reaction and view change as unnecessary and burdensome. As Biech stated, “people go through phases as they adjust to change and people perceive change as a loss – if only as the loss of what was” (2007, para. 17). I believe this loss referred by Biech could be a loss of (a) sense of control, (b) perceived loss of competence, and (c) loss of identity. In my interviews with colleagues about their experiences with leading change, almost all of them stated that the change initiatives they have lead were successful. However, it could have been better if their staff were more engaged and collaborative. They also stated that resistance to change was one of the biggest challenges in any change initiatives (K. Guerguerian, J. Mattson, & J. Richardson, personal communication, February 21, 2020). Experiences such as these call for a reform of change management and leadership.
A change leader exhibits both reflective and adaptive leadership skills. Reflective leadership constitutes mindfulness, trust, and empathy (Castelli, 2016), while adaptive leadership approach the complexity of change with agility and flexibility (Khan, 2017). The values and attributes of both reflective and adaptive leadership demonstrate collaboration in all levels in the system. In Kotter’s change model, creating the guiding coalition and empowering broad-based action entail collaboration. Collaboration happens when approaches such as appreciative inquiry and action research learning are applied in organizational change initiatives. Through inquiry, active listening, and empathy, a shared vision and purpose are developed. I have participated in both appreciative inquiry and action research learning, and both experiences were positive, inspiring, uplifting, and engaging. Both approaches focus on the people, drawing upon their experiences and expertise to contribute to the change effort.
Being transparent and communicating each step of the change process is critical to keep people engaged and motivated to stay resilient. In my experience as well as my colleagues, change takes considerable time to implement and embed in the culture (K. Guerguerian et al., personal communication, February 21, 2020). Therefore, communicating and connecting with people is essential to generate continuous momentum to change.
The technological advances and globalization are added factors in the rapid change that organizations are experiencing (Khan, 2017; Sheninger, 2019). A leader must have the digital fluency to manage the added complexity of technologies. According to Sheninger (2019, para.5), “digital leadership pertains to establishing direction, influencing others, and initiating sustainable change that requires a dynamic combination of mindset, behaviours, and skills that are employed to change culture through the assistance of technology.” In my area of digital education, it is critical to understand the role that technologies play when initiating change in education delivery. For example, my team developed a training program for a 13- member community hospitals using information computer technologies to reduce training redundancy.
The pace of change in organizations is rapid and dynamic, which could result in change fatigue and apathy. The recipe for leading change describes the importance of integrating contemporary leadership theories of reflective, adaptive and collaborative leadership with change models and approaches. Through this leadership change approach, it is shifting the notion of change not as a loss but a transformation of new self and identity.
Biech, E. (2007). Models of Change. Thriving through change: a leader’s practical guide to change mastery [E-book version]. Alexandria, VA: Association for Talent Development. Retrieved from Royal Roads Skillport Database
Castelli, P. A. (2016). Reflective leadership review: A framework for improving organisational performance. The Journal of Management Development, 35(2), 217-236. doi: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/10.1108/JMD-08-2015-0112
Khan, N. (2017). Adaptive or Transactional Leadership in Current Higher Education: A Brief Comparison. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18 (3), 178-183. Retrieved from Royal Roads University Moodle database
Sheninger, E. (2019, December). Pillars of digital leadership. International Center for Leadership in Education. Retrieved from http://leadered.com/pillars-of-digital-leadership/