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Role of leadership in change management

The Critical Role of Leadership During Organizational Change: How leaders should manage change.

In the 21st century, change has become the rule of the business industry. Due to the fast changing business environment, most organizations are under immense pressure over how to respond to these rapid changes.

From economic to technological and demographic, several kind of changes in the global environment have required businesses to shift their strategic course, to adapt and to make changes to their organizational culture to respond to the changing market dynamics and industry environment.

Technological changes have occurred at a very fast rate and for most businesses IT has become integral to competitiveness and productivity.

However, just adopting new technologies to improve productivity is not sufficient. Several times businesses have had to alter their marketing and HR strategies to suitably respond to the fast changing business environment. Many organizations underwent cultural changes that made them more ready for growing competition in the industry. In this way, change has become the norm and one of the leading factors that have necessitated change more than ever is growing competition. However, the way leaders see and manage change determines the outcome and whether the change is going to last.

Commitment from leaders:

Not all types of changes are successful. Several times due to one or another reason change initiatives have failed. The industry is replete with examples where the entire initiative failed for simple reasons. The responsibility of the success of a change initiative lies on the shoulders of the leaders.  The role of the leaders becomes important for several reasons.

The level of commitment that they exhibit to any change decides the level of success that will follow. A high level of commitment to the process of change from the leadership ensures the success of the process.  Leaders do not have to just watch when the change process is on. They are the leaders, the advocates, the sponsors, the guides, the role models and the motivators in the process of change. All these roles demand deep commitment and intense focus. If the leaders are not committed to the reasons for change, they cannot expect it of their followers. Since the role of leadership is central to bringing change, their commitment has a profound impact on the process of change and its outcome.

Gain Buy In:

Committed leaders can gain commitment from their followers but first they need to demonstrate their commitment.  If you want to demand commitment from your followers your first step will be to engage them and get them interested.

The leader has to be the champion of change and demonstrate to his followers that the impending change is for the benefit of all. Rather than imposing change, good leaders try to gain acceptance by inviting participation.

They do not just go out and force everyone to be a part of the process because they have the authority to do so. They gain buy in by using the right channels and the correct methods. How well the leadership is able to communicate the cause behind the change to the followers determines how much work needs to be done in the later stages to make the change last.

Leaders are the role models for their followers, so followers will be willing to accept the change only if they see the leaders doing so. If the leaders are confident about the change and its outcome, they would need to try little to help their followers understand and adapt. Gaining buy in from your followers requires communication and trust. The leadership must try to gain their followers’ trust and ask them to actively participate in the process of change.

Communication for trust and motivation:

The most important tool before any leader is communication during organizational change. Leaders must use it effectively to gain buy in and encourage participation. The leaders who are passionate about change, communicate it to their followers. They use their words to motivate the entire staff and gain their support.

The leaders are the primary decision makers and when planning for change they should look for how well the resources are organized to achieve the desired end. They should check that which processes and individuals will be affected most severely by the change process. To ensure smooth progress they must ensure that all the required resources are in place.

If anybody requires training to be a part of the change process, the leaders should ensure they are provided the required training and education. The organizational environment before the change is quite unstable. Fear is bound to be there among people and rumors are bound to float.

Lack of clarity about the process can further spoil the situation. In such a case, it is the job of the leadership to convince everyone and eliminate the sources of fear that can reduce the pace of change. Leaders can achieve this through effective communication. They must use verbal and non verbal channels for communicating with their followers regarding the change. Moreover, the use of informal communication channels can help them gain buy in faster.

Persuade, engage and drive change:

Before change implementation, change interpretation or how the staff interprets the change is the responsibility of the leaders. They should act accountably and with transparency to inspire trust among their followers.

The focus must remain on engaging the staff and for it, communication is essential to strike a deep connection and inspire motivation. No change has been successful without motivation. So, motivating the staff is important to persuade them to be a part of the change and commit their energy and talent to it.

The staff must also be provided with clear guidelines over how to act in which situation and whom to contact immediately in a situation of crisis. However, gaining the participation and support from everyone is not an easy challenge.

The leader must create a compelling vision for the future to drive organizational change. Deep and large scale changes cannot be made possible unless there is a compelling vision to guide and drive them.

By creating a compelling vision, the leaders ensure that everyone feels like a part of the change and is willing to support it with energy and enthusiasm. If the leader’s vision has the right appeal, it would not be difficult for the followers to accept it and act per his directions. So, to bring about a change that will last and have a positive impact on the business productivity and organizational environment, the leaders must have a compelling reason to bring about the change. They also need a clear vision and should set a strategic direction before initiating the change process.

Stay connected, stay committed:

It is also important that the leaders remain connected with their employees all throughout the process so that if the plan hits a hurdle the staff does not start losing motivation or confidence. Leaders are the primary source of energy and inspiration when a change is underway and their role is more than critical to the success of the entire process.

So, at the end it all depends on the level of commitment they exhibit. With higher level of commitment comes higher level of success and such changes last. With low level of commitment from the leadership and low level of accountability comes partial or no success.

Environment of change is characterized by high level of uncertainty and many times by very high levels of fear and confusion. In such instances unless the leadership is ready with answers and guidelines, making a change successful is not just improbable but impossible. The commitment of leaders throughout the process is essential since if the leaders lose focus midway, the change will not be effective. Once the leaders lose focus, the change process will crumble and the leaders might need to reconsider their options.

A few last words:

Change has become the rule of the industry. In an ever changing industry environment, where there is higher competition and uncertainty, change has become essential for businesses striving to stay ahead. Technological advancements happen daily and businesses are investing more than ever in innovation to achieve growth and success. Companies that seek to bring about major changes first need to focus on their cultures since it is at the root of everything.

They should try to adopt a culture that drives faster innovation and is flexible to change. Whenever, there is a mention of change, the role of leadership in this regard is also highlighted. The leaders’ commitment is essential to bringing about change. When leaders are committed change happens faster and with higher ease. However, if the leaders’ commitment is missing, one cannot expect the leaders to follow. So, leaders should not just show their commitment, they must involve their followers at every stage to gain buy in. Communication is among the most important tools at the dispense of the leadership. If used properly, communication can help make change successful. Leaders should also strive to remain transparent and keep their followers informed. it is important to gain the followers’ trust to bring about change and make its effects last. There can be several reasons why a company needs to bring about change. However, making change successful requires exercising caution at each stage. The role of leadership and followers both is critical to the success of change.


2. https://www.cscollege.gov.sg/Knowledge/Pages/The-Role-of-Leadership-in-Organisational-Transformation.aspx 3. https://www.enclaria.com/2011/10/06/six-roles-of-a-leader-during-change/ 4. https://www.enclaria.com/2011/10/06/six-roles-of-a-leader-during-change/