Change Leadership Defined!

Change Leadership vs. Change Management.

Change Leadership and Change Management are two terms that are often used interchangeably. Oftentimes, the phrase “Change Management” is employed to describe “Change Leadership” due to the close relationship between the two.

Let’s begin by distinguishing between these two terms. Change Management is usually very tactical, frequently linked to a specific project with a defined start and end date. On the other hand, Change Leadership is often an ongoing process, a skill that’s necessary both within and outside the realm of Change Management projects.

A Change Leader (representing Change Leadership) is what you evolve into, independent of your role or title, while Change Management delineates tasks you must undertake. It’s akin to the difference between charting the course (leading) and steering the ship (managing).


The Change Leadership Role is Changing.

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, Change Leadership competencies have become critical to support our disruptive business climate and organizational demands.

Historically, when we heard the word ‘Change Leadership’, it was a competence reserved for a select few such as Top Management or Change Managers. But this is no longer the case in today’s fast-paced and disruptive business environment.

In our experience of working with many organizations, we discovered that some of the biggest frustrations and challenges often faced when implementing new ideas or changes was a lack of change leadership as a competency across board from the individual contributor to management. For every successful or unsuccessful initiative, one factor was always most paramount; it came down to ‘Change Leadership’.

In today’s disruptive business environment, change is happening at an accelerated speed that requires us to respond faster and better than ever before. And this can only happen when we are all empowered and equipped with the change leadership competencies and mindset to nimbly and ably navigate change within our sphere of influence.

One mistake easily and often made is to believe that the leadership role is strictly reserved only for the ‘leader’, which leaves many contributors failing to take responsibility for their role in successfully leading and driving towards the desired outcomes for their tasks, projects or the organization.

However, that is no longer the case, the ability to lead and respond to change is now a core competency required of every leader, innovator, manager, project manager, change practitioner or team member aspiring to make significant impact in their role and organization. 


What is Change Leadership?

For many years the most popular definition of Change Leadership that existed was by Higgs and Rowland as “Change leadership is the ability to influence and enthuse others through personal advocacy, vision and drive, and to access resources to build a solid platform for change“.

While this is a great definition, in today’s VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complex, Ambiguous) world where change is fast-paced, continuously being disrupted by advancing technology and a complex socio-economic environment, we need a definition that best describes our new paradigm and the much needed role of change leadership that cuts across ‘position’ and ‘title’. The following definition encapsulates this shift in paradigm, as well as the top skills required by change leaders:

Change Leadership is the ability to influence and inspire action in others, and respond with vision and agility during periods of growth, disruption or uncertainty to bring about the needed change.

(Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta)

Change leadership requires the need to be visionary and forward thinking, and the ability to be agile and responsive to our constantly and rapidly changing business environment.  


Who is a Change Leader?

Some of the core skills required as a Change Leader include the ability to:

  • Lead and influence others, including peers and other leaders
  • Anticipate and respond to change with agility
  • Build and sustain momentum, and remain focused in the midst of disruption
  • Communicate effectively and collaborate with others
  • Build trust with others and demonstrate empathy by putting people first
  • Identify and overcome barriers to change, with a focus on the big picture
  • Set the vision, and bring others onboard
  • Build and hold the team and colleagues together, motivated and empowered 
  • Willing to take risks, and be creative, innovative and decisive
  • Build and sustain momentum, and remain focused in the midst of disruption

Are you successfully leading and responding to change in today’s fast-paced and disruptive business environment.

N/B – Are you part of our free online change leadership community yet? Click HERE to join in for free!

Looking to develop your change leadership competencies? Learn more about the Change Leadership Accelerator Program

If you would like to receive updates on ‘What’s Changing, and What’s New’ directly to your inbox, be sure to join our mailing list.