Change leadership? Who cares?

Photo of blue & green paper boats being led by a red boatIt’s odd to me that change leadership is so often overlooked when companies embark on a big strategic change.

The focus is typically on change management – which is primarily about project management: how we get from here to there, planning, resource allocation, task assignments, status tracking, and so on. A big strategic change initiative may have multiple projects, of course, but still the overall focus tends to be on the process of Getting It Done.

But still, many change initiatives struggle and falter and even fail outright. Typically, that’s attributed to basic management issues, such as poor communication, bad planning, scope creep, and so on.

Leaders consistently overlook the people aspect of change.

Let’s face it: as much as we intuitively know it’s not true, we still tend to cling to the myth that people at work have (or are supposed to have) no emotional reactions to what’s happening. We’re advised (as a quick Google search will inform you) to not worry about what others think, to “know your worth,” and “let things go.”

But work is personal. We’re humans, not robots, and we can’t shut down our emotional reactions when we start the workday. It’s a neurological impossibility and psychologically unhealthy.

Work is personal. We're not robots. And if we want change initiatives to succeed, we need to understand the emotional impact and individual motivations of the employees involved.Click To Tweet

And when we learn to recognize and manage our reactions to change – our own as well as our employees’ and colleagues’ – we become change leaders.

Which means the change initiatives we lead and in which we participate are far more likely to succeed. If that sounds like it saves time, money, and alleviates major stress – you’re absolutely right.

I’ll be writing more about this topic; to see the full list of articles on Change Leadership, click here.


The skills of change leadership are NOT the same as those of change management. Check out the course Change Leadership: strategies for success

And it’s never “Just a business decision.”


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