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Leadership and Change

By Wayne Thomas April 25, 2018 by 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 are always in the midst of it in their organization or project. 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 in the same—and should not be separated from one another into separate levels of expertise.

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 subjects. Instead, I would like to position my own understanding and application of these dynamics and how they should correlate with one another. This way, you will be able to utilize and apply my experiences to contribute to the successful achievement of targets or delivery of projects.

Leadership Model
Change Management

In the 70’s, 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” (pictured right.)

In the early 80’s, 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 see 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, their willingness and readiness to change must be measured in conjunction with the task or project that needs to be accomplished in order to effectively apply the approach at hand.

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 team will (hopefully) be ready and able to deliver one outcome and thus, a delegating style can be chosen to be appropriately applied. In a different scenario, where a group or individual has little to no experience, or skillset, more directive support and guidance may be needed for a desirable outcome. This concept of an individuals or teams’ ability and willingness to change is explored further in the next section.

The Valley of ChangeValley 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 a Leader understands where in the Valley of Change the individual or teams they are working with are in then he or she 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 the Leader 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
Unconscious Incompetence Directing
Conscious Incompetence Coaching
Conscious Competence Supporting
Unconscious Competence Delegating

 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 with 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 may be
  • Assess the willingness, readiness and ability of the individual or team to change,
  • Adapt their Leadership style and message delivery
  • 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. I implore you to read more on the topic at hand.

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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