Organisational change requires a clear implementation plan (change management) and a focus on connecting people to the vision whilst offering the right support throughout the change journey (change leadership). Proper planning and effective follow-through, combined with a focus on what people really need, can help overcome resistance and facilitate a smooth transition process that enables you and your team to maximise the benefits of organisational change.

What is Change Leadership?

Change leadership is a type of leadership style that emphasises the value of adaptability to change. This leadership method creates a sense of urgency and encourages action from employees to drive transformation within an organisation.

Change leadership is crucial if you want to make your employees resilient to periods of disruption, growth, and change. It also makes your team more open to change through agility practices and having a vision of the future. Your employees and team in general understand that handling change is vital if you are to grow as individuals and as an organisation.

Therefore, you foster their skills to manage change (even large scale ones) in an orderly way and to see opportunities in every change initiative.

You need a change leadership approach to influence your employee mindsets and complement your change management efforts. When a leader can motivate employees and equip them with the skills to adapt and embrace change, it makes it easier to achieve your goals.

People in a business meeting

What is Change Management?

While change leadership is a leadership approach to managing and implementing change within the organisation, change management is a collection of tools and processes that facilitate such change to occur. Business processes are constantly changing, and you must adapt to the changing external landscape.

Change management ensures you have the knowledge, tools, and mechanisms to facilitate the transition process. In addition, the skills, knowledge, and tools also ensure that you can minimise the potential negative consequences of the change management initiative.

Most companies implement change management when they want to reach a desired position that is higher than their current status. In some cases, change management is necessary to achieve significant growth. For example, you need to adopt a new technology that would enable your business to compete with others in your industry.

Another example is when you upgrade your existing business processes to minimise operational costs and meet your profit targets. It could also mean introducing a new product line to take advantage of a market opportunity or to gain a competitive advantage.

The above examples require an effective change management strategy to ensure you can effectively manage the change process.

People laughing in an office

Change Leadership vs Change Management: Key Differences

Now that you understand the difference between change leadership and change management, it’s time to inspect their key differences more closely. A deep understanding of what is involved in change efforts can be critical to your future success.

Comparison table of Change Leadership vs Change Management

1. Scope and Timeframe

Change management is a broad term that refers to tools, structures, and processes involved in the change effort. It involves a wider scope than change leadership because you are basically revamping the very structure that your company is built upon.

Therefore, you have to ensure that all critical elements are in the right order or see your change initiatives fail. There is no definite timeframe for change management because it depends on the scale of your change management plans and strategies.

In a way, change leadership can be seen as one of the driving forces behind change management. A proactive approach through the proper leadership style could influence employee mindsets.

When your employees understand that change is something they should embrace and not fear, it is the first step in overcoming resistance and leading change in a smooth and organised manner.

2. Purpose and Roles

The purposes and the roles of those involved in change leadership and change management are also where their differences lie. For example, change leadership requires the leader to take on the visionary role. They are among the driving forces that inspire employees to embrace change and offer guidance through this transformation journey.

Leaders must empower their employees to look at change as an opportunity to grow so they become active participants in that change.

On the other hand, change management is task-oriented and focuses on the successful implementation of the strategic plan, where specific tasks and activities that align with the change management initiative are designated.

3. Communication

Change leadership acknowledges the human emotion behind the change. Many employees fear change; it’s a natural reaction to uncertainty and the unknown.

That’s why change leaders employ an empathic communication style to foster trust and transparency in the leadership of the change to help others see the personal benefits. Change leaders are responsible for communicating honestly and with transparency to enable employees to embrace the change.

Meanwhile, change management uses clear and concise communication to ensure all aspects of the change management effort are fully understood. If not, the change initiative could fail.

Communication in change management requires tracking and monitoring of goals and progress. Employees should also fully understand why the change is necessary, to what end it is, and to what extent it will affect them.

Business meeting

Integrating Change Leadership and Change Management

Here are some tips to help with the transition phase and focus on maintaining momentum.

Develop an enhanced communication strategy.

A solid communication strategy can facilitate change within an organisation in an orderly and effective way. You must clearly communicate the reason for implementing change and how you plan on putting that change into effect.

It’s human nature to resist change; it entails fear of uncertainty and the unknown. But a good leadership approach and effective communication help in overcoming resistance. It enables you to address concerns as your employees raise them and also makes it easy for them to speak up about those concerns.

Proactively manage resistance.

The best way to effectively handle change and overcome resistance is to be proactive about it. Expect that there will be resistance from your employees and team when you implement change. Accepting this enables you to shift your mindset toward understanding where and why the resistance is coming from and how to manage it effectively.

Define your vision and let your team see it.

Change leadership is critical to change management because it allows your employees to see the same vision as you do.

Change leaders can influence and inspire others to see opportunities and to predict what’s next before challenges occur. It frees you up to think about how you can exploit those opportunities, instead of trying to overcome fear of change.

Leverage data to drive change.

Helping your team and employees meet the need for change requires data-driven decisions. Be prepared to present your team with data-based insights to help get them on board with your quest for transformational change.

Take full advantage of new technology to build and create a strategic narrative that would get them excited about new opportunities.

Identify metrics to measure change results.

Establish change management KPIs to monitor progress and continue to improve. Use these KPIs when analysing change management activities so you can assess effectiveness and implement training where necessary.

There are several tools you can use to measure these KPIs, such as employee surveys, risk-cost-benefit analysis, flowcharts, system usage reports, and more.

People in a meeting in an office

Final Thoughts on Change Leadership vs Change Management

Both change leadership and change management have important roles to play in implementing change initiatives within any organisation. While they have differences, they complement each other and must be integrated into any change effort to survive any external changes and to survive as an organisation despite the stiff competition.

Without one or the other, you could survive the transition process, but end up compromising some aspects of the large scale change, such as the human element. It’s a big challenge to juggle these two, but they can be worthwhile as a foundation for leading change.

ChangingPoint offers a unique change management programme using the latest thinking from behavioural science to help leaders engage, align, and inspire their people through organisational change. Learn more about our Universal Change Leadership Programme.

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Written by Jayne Ruff

Jayne Ruff, Occupational Psychologist & Managing Director at ChangingPoint. To find out more about how ChangingPoint can help you align minds to transform your business, get in touch.



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