organizational leadership: a company leader facilitating a training session

Adapting organizational leadership to change

Organizational leadership, in today’s rapidly evolving landscape, stands as a linchpin for success. As research findings illuminate, adaptable leadership is pivotal. A McKinsey report revealed that companies with agile leaders were 1.5 times more likely to outperform peers. This article delves into these transformative insights, exploring how organizational leadership must pivot to navigate change, foster innovation, and cultivate resilience. Join us in uncovering the strategies that empower leaders to steer their teams adeptly through the complexities of our ever-changing world.

Change initiative from an organizational leadership’s perspective.

In organizational leadership, a change initiative represents a strategic investment aimed at enhancing business efficiency, bolstering profitability, and curtailing expenses.

The success of these change initiatives holds immense significance in maintaining the competitive edge of both company culture and operational effectiveness within the contemporary market landscape. From a strategic perspective, the triumph of these initiatives nurtures a culture of collaboration, elevates morale, reinforces leadership prowess, and cultivates opportunities within the organizational framework. On the operational front, these initiatives work to enhance the cadence of business operations, perpetually refine leadership behaviors at all echelons, and above all, garner enthusiastic endorsement from both internal and external stakeholders.

The fruition of impactful change initiatives hinges upon judicious timing, progressive leadership, and unwavering support from every stakeholder involved. Research substantiates that meticulously structured and adeptly guided change initiatives boast a sixfold likelihood of attaining their objectives and effecting enduring outcomes.

Crafting a successful change initiative through organizational leadership

Comparing the process of embracing and championing change to constructing a bridge connecting the past to the future is insightful. A proficient leader of change doesn’t just focus on introducing new elements of change; they also consider how these elements can be woven into the existing organizational culture for enhancement and preservation. It’s crucial to identify the enduring and valuable aspects of the current culture and integrate them into the envisioned change initiatives, thereby shaping the future culture.

Dr. John Kotter, a respected authority and professor at Harvard Business School, outlines eight essential principles for effectively leading a change initiative within an organization:

Foster Urgency: Create a strong feeling of necessity throughout the organization, making everyone aware of the need for change and its importance.

Form a United Team: Build a coalition of dedicated individuals who support the change initiative, providing a collective backbone for driving it forward.

Develop Strategic Vision: Craft a clear and compelling vision that outlines where the organization is headed with the change, emphasizing the benefits it will bring to everyone involved.

Consistent Communication: Continuously and consistently communicate the vision to all stakeholders, ensuring that the message remains at the forefront of everyone’s minds. We recommend using collaborative tools such as Microsoft Teams and

Barrier Removal and Empowerment: Identify and eliminate obstacles that hinder progress, while empowering employees to contribute actively to the change process.

Celebrate Short-Term Wins: Recognize and appreciate the achievements that occur in the short term, boosting morale and reinforcing the positive outcomes of the change initiative.

Cultural Integration: Build on the initial changes by embedding them into the organizational culture, ensuring they become an integral part of how the organization operates.

Sustainable Integration: Integrate the change into future initiatives and practices to ensure its lasting presence and impact within the organization’s ongoing endeavors.

Common pitfalls in change initiatives…

Research indicates that more than 70 percent of extensive transformational change initiatives end up unsuccessful. These failures frequently trace back to misunderstandings about the initiative, inadequate communication, insufficient engagement and enthusiasm from leadership, and employee resistance.

When change initiatives lack adept leadership and fail to account for the well-being and perspectives of all those affected, they can lead to ongoing challenges such as retaining employees, maintaining customer service quality, and ensuring productivity remains unaffected.

Leadership in change initiatives 

Organizational leadership faces mounting pressure to rapidly execute substantial change initiatives within a financially challenging and rapidly evolving landscape. The era of traditional top-down leadership approaches is gradually drawing to a close.

In the words of Peter Drucker, a pivotal figure in shaping modern business operations, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence itself – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” To be an effective change leader demands a transition from outdated traditional leadership methods to an all-encompassing and collaborative lead-by-example approach.

Authors Higgs and Rowland, in their work ‘The Quest for Change Competence,’ introduce a novel leadership model known as change leadership. This approach involves the capacity to inspire and encourage others through personal advocacy, a shared vision, heightened communication, and the facilitation of resources to construct a sturdy groundwork for change.

Effective change leadership occurs when the leader does all the following: 

  1. Provides a clear vision that details the reason for the change
  2. Creates urgency and communicates the explicit benefits to the company
  3. Involves all levels of the organization
  4. Enlists stakeholders as change agents who can support and champion the change

So, let’s break this down… 

Where does this pathway to successful change leadership begin? 

The first step toward is a vision for the future with tangible metrics and measurable goals. Implementation of an actual change vision begins with a leader who can influence and inspire action. They communicate how the organization will be operationally different and what the future will look like; enabling others to let go of outdated beliefs, embrace the vision, and follow leadership into the future.  

The second step is making the change initiative part of the culture, which is one of the most difficult pieces. It is difficult to change culture through mandated training programs, directives, and leadership speeches. How leadership acts outside of those meetings and training is closely observed by employees and what often drives culture changes. For change to last, leaders’ behavior needs to be consistently modeled and reinforced until the desired change becomes the norm within the organization.  

What should the vision for change include? 

The vision typically includes the rationale for change, the benefits of the change to employees, and the benefits to the organization. This is the time to reflect on the micro and macro effects of change.  

For example, X change will help employees do X job more effectively, increasing morale and productivity. X change will help leaders find more ways to create opportunities for their employees and run operations smoothly. On a larger scale, in the macro environment, the organization will thrive and attract business and allow us to swiftly deliver the best products to our customers because of this change. 

How should the vision of change be communicated? 

The vision of the change must be explicit and continuously communicated to ensure the initiative stays on track. The conversation must flow both ways, both coming from the top of the organization as well as from the bottom of the organization. Ensure all parties are part of the conversation to ensure buy-in and swift implementation at all levels.  

Employees should feel comfortable voicing any concerns with the initiative and feel their buy-in matters because it does! The messaging should be in alignment with the organization’s vision, values, and strategic goals. The messaging to employees must include how the change will be measured and by what metric each department and individual will be measured. 

Who should be recruited to help champion this initiative? 

Seek out those who regularly attend meetings and have provided feedback and suggestions for improvement in the past. Successful change leaders look for those who will challenge and critically analyze the change and initiative to ensure the most efficient results are brought forward.  

Look for those who are advocates for change to help communicate the vision. Look for employees at all levels to ensure no experiences, insights, or opinions are not overlooked or included in the vision. Change initiatives are based on teams and teamwork, they rely on everyone’s experience and opinion.  

How do change leaders create urgency around the initiative? 

Successful change leaders motivate and encourage stakeholders to be actively engaged in the process by continuously demonstrating value. It is dangerous for a company or organization to maintain the status quo, change leaders are needed to pilot collaborative and innovative platforms for the future state of the company. 

First, capture the attention of critical organization stakeholders with the need for change. Then, create urgency by highlighting the need for change and putting it to a timeline. Outline and measure the phases of the change initiative to sell the importance of acting now.  

How do you involve all levels of the organization? 

The average business faced with a change initiative will find that 20 percent of the workforce is usually behind the change and will help drive the process forward, roughly 50 percent will be noncommittal and relatively quiet throughout the process, and about 30 percent will resist change.  

To address the 80 percent that may question or resist change, seek out input and involve everyone in decision-making. This is where it is crucial to step away from outdated ideas of leadership, top-down directives will not be productive in this space.  

Innovative leaders are needed to engage and motivate all stakeholders. Employees should feel comfortable bringing ideas and concerns to the table. Deliberate attention will be paid to how the workforce learns to react, adapt, and change.  

The 20 percent onboard can also help motivate and spread the message of the change initiative. When input is heard and incorporated and excitement builds around the future of the organization, those questions or opposed to change will be more open to hearing and embracing the mission.  

Connect with us for effective change strategies.


Other resources referenced in this article: