What Is Change Leadership?

Change leadership is not the same as change management, though the two are related.

In short, change leadership refers to the business function of envisioning and driving change initiatives.

Change management, on the other hand, involves the design, management, and evaluation of change initiatives.

Both of these disciplines are vital to the success of any change program.

Without vision, a change program has no goal. Without management, it cannot get there successfully.

Characteristics of change leadership include:

  • Vision – This is the “after” state that an organization, department, or group hopes to achieve
  • Platform – Communicating the change is essential to its success, which is where a story, or platform comes in
  • Hands-On Involvement – Executive buy-in is one thing, but embodying the change is what differentiates leaders from figureheads

Through direct involvement with staff, change leaders significantly improve the results of any change program.

The most effective change leaders follow a few simple principles when driving change forward:

  • Clear Communication – One of the biggest obstacles to change is employee resistance. Clear communication is one of the most effective ways to lower this barrier.
  • Collaboration – Another way to gain support at every level is through collaborative decision-making and total participation.
  • Commitment – Persistence and perseverance are also keys to success. The more that leaders can demonstrate their commitment to the change effort, the more support they will gain.

Depending on the size of the organization, the change leadership function may overlap with change management.

Larger organizations, on the other hand, may need to employ “miniature” change leaders – change champions.

Change champions are individuals in an organization who, as the name suggests, “champion” the change effort.

They lead change efforts within departments, teams, and sections, by following many of the leadership principles mentioned above.

Regardless of the nature of the change in question – whether it is structural, cultural, or digital – change leadership is vital.

Leadership, or lack thereof, can determine the success or failure of a change initiative.

Any business embarking on a change program should carefully consider how they manage and lead their change.

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