The characteristics of a change leader

Article contributed by Val Boudreau

Change is ever constant. While change often brings about new, creative, and needed ideas and ways to do things; going through a significant change process is difficult. It’s emotionally draining, saps energy and productivity and can also result in damaged relationships. When our organizations face major changes, it’s important for leaders to become change leaders not change managers. Change leaders are the force behind a major overhaul or change initiative. Change leadership involves a vision for the outcome of the change and providing the guidance, accountability, and decision-making to achieve it.

Qualities of Change Leaders

  • Have a Vision | Big changes require big and creative ideas. Ideas not just for the present change but how will they carry the company/organization into the future. Begin any major transformational change process with a clear vision of where you want to go and consider the big picture as you develop plans. Think outside the box, brainstorm, involve others within the organization and review stories of other successful change leaders to help plan a change effort.
  • Demonstrate Confidence | Project confidence to improve your chances of getting buy-in from those you rely on from the senior levels in the organization to the front-line employees. Confidence makes the change process smoother and helps align people to your ideas. It also reinforces trust.
  • Create a Strategy | It is critical to develop a successful change strategy. Identify each step carefully and set clear metrics for the milestones and outcomes. Share the plan broadly so all who are involved know what and how they need to contribute. 
  • Provide Oversight | After initiating a change strategy, a change leader must closely monitor the plans. Pay attention to potential resistance from employees, pressure from competitors, how to optimize workflow, and uncertainty from team members and other stakeholders. Know the issues and be ready to make quick decisions that align with the vision and strategy. This is where the train can go off the tracks. Being able to manage change under pressure is the difference between success and failure.
  • Employ Flexibility | It is vital to listen to feedback from employees, stakeholders, project members, etc. Demonstrate trust in the competencies of your team members, and delegate tasks to others. Seek feedback and collaboration throughout the process to help it to be successful. Be flexible to alter plans, change course and look for feedback from all areas even the naysayers and resisters. There is generally a kernel of truth in their complaints.

Change leadership is not an off-the-side-of-the-desk process. It involves intense thinking, planning, forecasting, and implementing!  Adopting the qualities of a change leader vs a change manager will help ensure success.