min read

Leadership and Change Management

See The Lasting & Sustainable outcomes you expected

Wayne Thomas

Have you ever wondered why organizations appear to have Change Management programs that are separate from Leadership programs? I have! In my own experience with these programs, I have noticed that change is a constant theme… and leaders area always in the midst of it. This change that leaders and organizations experience can be in response to a multitude of factors: strategy updates, market dynamics, a need to reduce costs or product innovations, etc. Leadership and Change management are one and the same—and should not be separated from one another. At this juncture, I’m not going to position a new theory or philosophy as there is already an abundant and well-informed body of work on these two topics. Instead, I would like to position my own understanding and application of these dynamics and how they should correlate with one another. In this way, you may be able to utilize and apply my experiences to contribute to your own successful outcomes.

Leadership Model

In the ’70s, while Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard were working on their theory “Management of Organizational Behavior”, they developed an approach that was eventually named the “Situational Leadership Model”. In the early ’80s, the authors went about developing their own independent versions of the underlying theory, which include the following models:

  • Blanchard et al. the Situational Leadership II Model
  • Hersey the Situation Leadership Model

The essential conclusions of these great bodies of work, which I encourage you to read for yourself, are that there is no single best style of Leadership. To be effective, a Leader must assess and then adapt their approach to suit either the individual or the team. Then, the team’s or individual’s willingness and readiness to change must be measured in conjunction with the task or project that needs to be accomplished.

The Situational Leadership Model rests on two fundamental concepts: Leadership Style and the individual or group's Performance Readiness level. By studying these concepts, a leader will  be ready and able to use a delegating style appropriate to the outcome desired, leveraging the capability of the team or the individual.

In a different scenario, where a group or individual has little to no experience or skillset, a more directive support and guidance may be needed for a desirable outcome. This concept of individuals or teams’ ability and willingness to change is explored further in the next section.

The Valley of Change

There are many great references available that one can use to understand this model, with many authors having inferred their own interpretations. The earliest reference I could find was by Noel Burch whilst he was working with Gordon Training International. When aLeader understands where in the Valley of Change the individual or teams are, they can adapt their style and approach to suit the circumstance and situation at hand. Overlapping the Models- By acknowledging an individual’s or team’s DNA i.e., ability and willingness to change, the personality traits, the understanding of interpersonal dynamics theLeader must match the key concepts found in the two models described above.

There are 4 quadrants perceived by these models: Valley of Change Situational Leadership II

  1. Unconscious Incompetence requires a Directing approach
  2. Conscious Incompetence requires Coaching approach
  3. Conscious Competence requires Supporting approach
  4. Unconscious Competence requires Delegating approach

 Practical Application

I have concluded that there are 3 practical approaches that will help you, the reader, to understand the application of these underlying theories:

  1. Think like a Sergeant (Directing)
  2. Think like a Shepherd (Coaching and Supporting)
  3. Think like a Diplomat (Delegating)

Think Like a Sergeant: The team is in the trenches and know there is work due, they are feeling terrified and uncertain. The Sergeant must lead from the front, eyes firm on the target, giving firm and direct instruction. All the while explaining the outcomes and getting involved in the day-to-day execution to produce exceptional results.

Think Like a Shepherd :The team sort of understands the direction of travel and where they must end up... but upon occasion, these teams may need special help and encouragement to reach the final paddock. It might take a Shepherd’s Crook or a nip from a sheepdog. Reinforce and encourage to reach the final perfected product.

Think Like a Diplomat: Set the strategy, make resources available and ensure the objective is clear and then let the team take care of what is expected of them. Review progress from time to time and provide the tools needed along the way to nail down a suitable finished result.

In Conclusion, the Leader needs to:

  • Establish where in the Valley of Change the individual or team maybe,
  • Assess the willingness, readiness, and ability of the individual or team to change,
  • Adapt their Leadership style and message focused on the outcome  desired,
  • Stay engaged and ensure the individual or teams make it through the Valley of Change to Unconscious Competence and remain there.

Leaders need to be able to clearly communicate what the vision is, set clear objectives, make a proper evaluation of the performance readiness and competence. Then by choosing the appropriate and matching Leadership style to deliver action the likelihood of a lasting and sustainable change or outcome can be expected. Reading material that I believe fits nicely with the change models depicted above are as follows: Simon Sinek –Start with Why, Kevin Cashman – Leadership from The Inside Out, The Arbinger Institute – Leadership and Self Deception, Brigid Carroll, Jackie Ford &Scott Taylor – Leadership: Contemporary Critical Perspectives.


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