Change is inevitable, and for organizations everywhere, things are moving faster than ever before. One study found that industry change, mergers and acquisitions activity, and disruptive startups will shorten the average lifecycle of an S&P 500 company from 24 years to just 12 years by 2027. Whether it is a result of organizational initiatives, a merger or acquisition, a leadership transition, or simply shifting market conditions, it isn’t about if, or even when the change will occur. It’s about how long-lasting and disruptive the change will be, and how it is handled by the organization.
Being prepared to not just survive change, but to proactively design and leverage opportunities for change from within the organization, is a key differentiator in today’s markets. To do this effectively, it is important to understand change management vs. change leadership.
What is Change Management?
Change management is usually reactionary and can be seen as a linear process, with a single goal and preset checkpoints. These are defined by the change managers and implemented by relevant individuals. As anyone who has been through a major change in an organization knows, it is rarely that straightforward. It is an iterative process that requires strong leadership, input from throughout the organization, and course-corrections throughout the process. To bring the biggest benefit, implementing change requires more than just management – it requires change leadership.
What is Change Leadership?
Change leadership is a proactive approach to change management, where change is seen as an opportunity for growth and improvement rather than a finite project. Change leaders create an inspiring vision and advocate for that vision throughout the organization.
Change leaders take a people-centric approach. They consider how change affects employees, their processes, and their tools. They work alongside company leaders, HR, and employees to successfully integrate the change rather than impose it. Change leaders seek out insights and feedback and strive to understand any challenges the change initiative is causing. They acknowledge when things aren’t working as anticipated and adjust the plan accordingly. This gives employees a voice in the initiative, empowering them to provide the input that will allow them to support and engage with the initiative.
But before a change initiative even begins, true change leaders work diligently to build trust with their employees. That way, when change happens there are strong relationships to provide a foundation that allows employees to follow even when things seem uncertain.
What Do Change Leaders Do Differently?
Inspire Others with a Vision
Define the Strategic Plan
Communicate Effectively with Employees
Provide Consistent Support
Sustain Energy Long-Term
Companies that pursue and embrace change are well-positioned to continue to evolve and grow, while those that resist change are at risk of stagnation – or even extinction. Pursuing and embracing change takes more than a change management approach. It requires leaders who lead the change and diligently work to guarantee the organization’s success. When companies simply manage change as it comes, they are constantly attempting to avoid threats. But when leaders can adopt a change leadership approach, change becomes an opportunity to thrive.
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