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Blog – Effective Leadership in a Changing World

By Dr Jelena Aleksic

“With everything you do, whether you know it or not, you are leading. And the only constant in this world is change.”

As we mark a year since the UK first went into lockdown, this statement seems all the more poignant. We’ve just gone through a year of households and workplaces adapting to changes that were previously unimaginable. While some changes are imposed and others are chosen, all changes require strong leadership. And as we all know from personal experience, change is inevitable.

Julie Hogbin, the founder of Conscious Leadership, is an expert on change management.

“In reality, all of us are managing change all the time. And the more change you have experienced, the better you will be at leading through it.”

Despite this, many organisational changes fail to be seen through to completion, meaning that the change is never fully embraced and implemented by everyone within the organisation. Change management skills are therefore an essential part of our leadership toolkits, ever more so in our rapidly changing world.

Change management is a set of approaches to help make organisational changes effectively, leaving no one behind. Here are some tips on approaches to adapt:

  • Develop an external perspective – understand the need for change and what change will be effective.
  • Act quickly – implement the changes rapidly when they are needed.
  • Maintain a strategic perspective – stay aware of what you do and why you are making the decisions you’re making.
  • Foster innovation – you don’t need to come up with all the ideas, ask your team/organisation what needs to be done and take their ideas onboard.
  • Inspire and motivate – enable people to embrace the changes.

“Motivation is an inner driver. Your role as a leader is to create the environment where people want to do what you need them to do willingly and well.”

In terms of how change moves through an organisation, Julie presented 5 stages we can all adopt, along with frequencies of each category based on organisational surveys:

  • Innovators (3%)
  • Early adopters (13%)
  • Early majority (24%)
  • Late majority (44%)
  • Change resistors (16%)

The sooner you get people involved and get buy-in, the easier it will be to implement the change, so it is essential to harness your champions (innovators and early adopters) at the beginning, and get their help with bringing people onboard and implementing changes.

At the same time, it’s essential that you bring everybody with you. While innovators and early adopters can act as champions for the change, Julie emphasised that every group of people has a valuable contribution to make to the process. For example, change resistors might be resisting the change because they have important concerns about it that have not been successfully addressed.

For this reason, keeping communication open is essential at all stages of the process. It is also very important to lead by example, as people will follow what you do and need to see you embracing the change in order to buy into it.

People respond differently to the same change, and change doesn’t always benefit everyone. Part of the process of leadership is managing feelings that come up, and helping people transition through the changes. This includes providing support for staff to air grievances at the beginning of the change process so that they feel heard, followed by guiding them through the adaptation stages.

It is also good to help them feel positive about it, for example by arranging a team celebration once the changes have started being implemented. Change can be challenging for people, and the best thing you can do is create an environment of psychological safety and help people through the process.

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow, if we don’t grow, we aren’t really living. The skills of yesteryear will not suffice for the future.” – Julie Hogbin

Related article: Blog – Intercultural Competencies & Leadership 

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