How to Become a Change Leader

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Regardless of industry, all companies go through periods of change. Whether they’re organisational or cultural, any changes to a business can be disruptive to employees if not handled properly. Requiring highly specialised skills, effective change leadership is crucial in helping companies deal with major developments. 

According to Harvard Business Review, effective change leaders demonstrate the following behaviours: 

  • Providing a clear, compelling purpose for change 
  • Looking ahead and seeing opportunity  
  • Seeking out what’s not working  
  • Calculated risk-taking and experimentation 
  • Looking for collaboration opportunities.  

To help you acquire the skills needed to effectively manage change, this article will look at how leaders can guide their team through periods of uncertainty using a proactive, people-centric approach. 

What is change leadership?  

Forbes defines change leadership as “the driving forces, visions and processes that fuel large-scale transformation.” From mergers and acquisitions to restructures and new hires, various developments can be managed with effective change leadership.  

No matter how carefully you plan and implement the operational side of a business transformation, failing to prepare your team will make leading the change initiative more challenging. Work Design Magazine points out that “People don’t change for policies and procedures, and they don’t change because they read a brochure. Rather, people change for other people.” 

Many managers still struggle with taking a people-centric approach to change management, despite the vital role this plays in guiding teams through organisational change. According to management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, up to 70 percent of change objectives fail to achieve their goals due to a lack of support from managers. In addition to holding back change, this lack of support can lead to adverse outcomes in employees.  

A study of over 1,500 workers by the American Psychology Association found that those dealing with organisational change were twice as likely to experience chronic work stress compared with employees who reported no recent, current or impending changes. Adaptive leadership can help reduce the stress associated with workplace changes, resulting in a happier, healthier, and more productive team.  

Navigating internal change  

In a recent survey focused on corporate longevity, consulting company Innosight found that industry developments, mergers, and disruption will shorten the average lifespan of S&P 500 companies from 24 years to 12 years by 2027. To keep up with such a rapid pace of change, organisations will need to continually adapt their internal processes in order to survive. lists the following internal factors as significant drivers of change within organisations:   

  • Staff turnover 
  • Skilling requirements 
  • Employee duties 
  • Changes to management policies and styles. 

To successfully lead a business  through periods of internal change, Tech Republic recommends the following techniques:  

  • Leverage technology to advance education 
  • Start the conversation about change management early  
  • Create and maintain a culture of embracing change.  

By taking a proactive approach to managing internal changes before, during and after they occur, you’ll have the opportunity to minimise their potentially negative impacts while mastering your change leadership skills.  


Navigating external change  

If not managed appropriately, external drivers of change can be just as disruptive to a business as those that play out internally. In fact, external changes can be even more challenging to deal with as they’re often harder to control.  

The Centre Management for Organisation Effectiveness names the following external influences as powerful drivers of change in business:  

  • Technology 
  • Customer preferences 
  • Regulations 
  • Competitor moves 
  • Supplier and sourcing instability. 

While managing external changes such as these can be difficult, it’s still possible to deal with them through adaptive leadership. Human resources company Lindenberger Group suggests taking the following steps to keep employees engaged throughout the change management process:  

  • Have a plan in place that clearly articulates the impact of the changes 
  • Set goals that employees can realistically achieve  
  • Define the changes at the start of the change management process 
  • Celebrate old processes to show employers their work was appreciated  
  • Articulate challenges and risks  
  • Listen to employee feedback 
  • Find key influencers within your workforce 
  • Adjust performance objectives.  

These techniques will help you and your team adapt to external changes as they arise.  


How can you become a change leader?  

Be it internal or external, change is inevitable in business and leaders need to be agile in order to steer their teams through periods of disruption. To improve your leadership and change management skills, Griffith University’s 100% accelerated online Graduate Certificate in Business Administration is a great upskilling option for those looking to improve their people management and adaptive thinking abilities.  

Two of the courses included in the program relate to change leadership:  

  • People - This course teaches students how to lead people to achieve sustainable business outcomes. 
  • Sustainability and Business Thinking - Focused on responsible leadership, sustainable business practice and global orientation, this course will develop your adaptive thinking mindset.  

Designed to give students the confidence to lead organisations through complex challenges, these courses can help you become the kind of manager who embraces change. 

To learn more about Griffith’s accelerated online Graduate Certificate in Business Administration book in a time to speak to one of our enrolment advisors or call us on 1300 737 945

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