In organizing this post, I have integrated personal views from my Indian roots, professional experiences, conversations with a colleague who has chosen to be anonymous, and readings that have helped me reflect, and revise my established thinking. My post begins by providing the context to my view on change, shares what I have taken digital leadership to mean, explains the concepts presented in my visual and concludes with my reflections.

In India, change is often represented by a wheel. The National Flag of India holds the Ashoka Chakra, a symbol of change, representing progressive India. Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan who was the first Vice-president of India emphasized this symbolism in August 1947 around the time of Indian independence, by saying “India should no more resist change, it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change.” Given this context, I see change as cyclic and constant, thrusting us forward consistently; and have structured my visual accordingly. I have also identified nine stages a leader participates in, in my cycle of change. Nine is an important number in India being the last of the single-digit numbers and is considered to represent the end of a cycle and the anticipation of a new one that is stronger. For this assignment, I have taken digital leadership to be about empowering others to lead and creating self-organizing teams. It is about leadership that is not hierarchical and requires participation, involvement, and leadership from everyone (Dubey, 2019).  

My cycle of change leadership begins with seeking. Biech, E. (2007) states that change is ever-present and ever-accelerating, adding that even changing something as personal and simple as a camera requires weeks of research given the sea of information as one prepares to make decisions. Applying this to an organizational context, leaders need to constantly anticipate organizational change and employee needs, identify benefits, potential roadblocks, strengths to leverage, and pitfalls to avoid, and seek out the knowledge they need to prepare for it.

Once prepared, leaders need to communicate with clarity. According to my colleague, communication through formal channels like e-mails needs to be supplemented by informal conversations and two-way dialogue where leaders are available to employees to speak to the benefits of change, the role each employee plays, and clarify concerns that arise. We agreed that this has been a lesson well emphasized through our experiences in the current workplace. Employee buy-in and participation are critical and informal conversations are instrumental in cementing that.

Speaking to gain buy-in and participation must be followed by active support and sponsorship. My colleague and I discussed how many of our change initiatives fell short because the change agents or catalysts were either inadequately supported or insufficiently respected. We agreed that passive leadership support is insufficient. Leaders need to empower their change catalysts, support them visibly and vocally, leveraging both synchronous and asynchronous channels. Active support needs to be followed by sponsorship of change catalysts where leaders show dependable commitment, remove barriers faced, and demonstrate ongoing endorsement of their change efforts.

Synergize refers to collaborating with employees and facilitating collaboration to multiply the impact of change. This must be followed by studying the impact, measuring success as needed to make course corrections collaboratively. Studying the impact also requires assessing cultural impact along with measuring the success indicators of the change effort.

Once the initial change efforts are set in motion and adjusted based on findings, it is imperative to scale up, or deep as required for the organization and its ecosystem to benefit.

Every change initiative is an opportunity to shape the organizational culture that cannot be ignored, given that change is ongoing. Leaders need to assess cultural needs, partner with employees, and take the steps needed to create a change-ready culture collaboratively. As Weiner (2009) iterates, organizational culture could amplify or dampen the change valence associated with organizational change, depending on whether the change effort fits or conflicts with cultural values.

Synthesizing change is about institutionalizing change, the lessons learned, and integrating the cultural elements of being change-ready, completing the cycle before seeking out the next change and preparing for it.

In reflecting for this assignment, I realize that authenticity, credibility, and transparency are qualities fundamental to progress through the stages of the change leadership cycle. Change leadership could mean coping with feelings of vulnerability, and maybe even failure necessitating a pause, ponder and reset pivot, followed by honest communication and a collaborative restart. These qualities are needed to maintain the team cohesion and trust needed to move forward. A few questions also emerged through this assignment. How can leaders balance the demands of change in the time available, if one or more steps fail? How can new leaders leverage leadership models that may not propose antidotes for failure? Given that we are surrounded by information, what skills do leaders need to leverage available information and forecast change, and how does that translate into our responsibility as learning leaders? How can employees be weaned away from expecting rewards for accepting and adapting to change, when change is indispensible for individual and collective survival?  I have a long way to go in my learning journey before feeling satiated.

 

References

Biech, E. (2007). Chapter 1: Changing Times. In Thriving through change: A leader’s Practical Guide to Change Mastery. essay, American Society for Training & Development.

Dubey, A. (2019, April 24). This is what great leadership looks like in the digital age. weforum.org. Retrieved February 19, 2022, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/04/leadership-digital-age-leader/

Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1748-5908-4-67