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The Art of Leading Change: Strategies for Success in Organizations

signposts for change

Now more than ever, organizations are facing an overwhelming amount of change. Market declines, increased competition and industry culture shifts all play an enormous role in how an organization functions. As change is inevitable, many business leaders find themselves looking for ways to move with the times.  However, high-performing leaders know that leading organizational change has as much to do with what needs to be done as it does with how things are done.

To adapt to increased complexity, particularly that of the business world, knowing how to implement change is one of the most important factors. The bottom line is, organizational change can only happen if you have high-performing leaders willing to set an example and get the rest of the organization on the same page.

In this article, we’ll explore what leading organizational change looks like. We discuss effective approaches to leading transformation and the impact a change leader can have. Finally, we look at how to grow your personal leadership competencies with learning and development.  

What Exactly Does Leading Change Management Mean?

The key to understanding change management is acknowledging that nothing can be done overnight. Long-term, sustainable change comes from having a vision, putting steps in place to reach that goal and continuously fine-tuning the process. Most importantly, change management requires the organization to “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This means that, as a leader, you must think big-picture. Rather than reacting to change and constantly putting out fires, how can you guide your organization to become an innovative leader in change? 

While growing complexity can seem daunting, nothing great comes from staying stagnant – growth should always be a focus for any organization. Leading change management is about promoting growth and creating a space for transitioning to new approaches through your leadership style. How might you better equip your people with the right resources and skills to handle change?

Effective Approaches to Leading Organizational Change

Organizations can fail to successfully manage change when they focus exclusively on what they are doing, day-in and day-out It’s all well and good to show leadership skills by coming up with a new organizational strategy or operating model. However, putting time and energy into how these strategies are implemented will ensure that change not only happens, but also sticks. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most effective approaches to leading organizational change.

Ensure Transparent Communication

For organizational change to occur, everyone involved has to be on board with the process. Communication is vital throughout every step. When a leader or leadership team has decided on what changes need to happen, that information has to be shared with all team members. This way, everyone can prepare for the changes and adjust their way of working accordingly. The same applies throughout the change process. Effective leaders must ensure that communication is consistent. With frequent contact and multiple touch-points, team members are clear on progress made, milestones achieved, and areas for improvement. 

Transparent communication also involves addressing employees concerns. Change can be painful for some workers. A high-performing leader encourages employees to express their concerns openly and actively listens to their concerns without passing judgment. Build trust with the team by publicly responding to concerns raised, and be willing to adapt based on employee feedback.

Reflection becomes crucial after change has been implemented. A successful leader works with all involved to decipher what went well and what could’ve been done differently. Reinforce the importance of the changes made so team members don’t revert to old habits. Providing a space for two-way communication and collective decision-making is vital to the success of long-term change.

Accountability Is Key

Real organizational change is only possible if everyone involved is held accountable to do their part in making change a reality. This includes leaders or managers, as well as staff. However, this can only happen when clear expectations are set. Those in leadership roles must show others they are also doing the work.

Sustainable success is far more likely on a high-performing team, where everyone works together, than through individual efforts alone. However, high-performing teams aren’t created overnight. Modeling behavior, teaching accountability and being clear about expectations within the team are a must. 

Understand That Change Is Necessary

People are unlikely to play their role in organizational change if they don’t understand why new ways of operating are needed. This relates back to clear communication. Change leaders must take responsibility for helping team members understand the purpose of new strategies. Because change can’t be accomplished without full organizational support, a leader’s role to inspire people and show them that change is positive and necessary.

Identify and Prepare for Challenges

Just like change is unavoidable, so are challenges. By identifying and anticipating what might hold us back, we can better handle problems when they arise. Growing pains during change are natural. Whether it be missed targets or team members not putting their best foot forward, it often takes time for change to take hold. Continue to stay positive, committed and consistent with your goals, while taking time to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Preparing for hiccups in the plan can also help you and your team develop adaptive leadership skills. You are more likely to reach your desired outcomes if you practice collaborative problem-solving and give regular feedback. When you come out on the other side, your team will have also practiced dealing with unexpected changes in real time.

Having a Clear Vision and Plan

Whatever changes you are met with as an organization, you won’t get anywhere without an action plan. Before even communicating to others how they can work with change, you need to have outlined a vision and the steps required to achieve that vision. A vision should cover the reason for the change, how it will impact the organization and what the end result will be. By communicating a clear action plan, people will become more comfortable with the idea, have time to embrace it and understand how their behavior needs to change for them to be a part of making transformation a success. 

The Impact of a Change Leader

There is a distinct difference between a manager and a change leader. Managers tend to talk at people, rather than with them. By contrast, change leaders include everyone in the conversation and give them the chance to contribute. While a manager may be focused on managing people, those in change management leadership roles have a stronger impact – mainly because they drive transformational change from the ground up. 

This means bringing everyone along for the journey and ensuring they have a voice and a role to play in making the change a reality. When change leaders see the achievement of goals as being bigger than themselves, that’s when progress is made.

How to Become an Effective Change Leader

When it comes to leading change in an organization, what’s abundantly clear is that it’s not a one-person effort. For real change to come about, you must be willing to show strong leadership and demonstrate how you want to implement changes so that others are on board.

Shifting to new approaches is often met with resistance. However, by keeping everyone on the same page as a leader, showing them how to take part in change and preparing for challenges together, you have a much better chance as an organization of achieving that vision. 

Having a clear plan for change helps others understand that, in almost all cases, charting a new course is necessary for growth. Leading change comes with a unique challenges, but when done with a collaborative focus, the sky really is the limit.

At WDHB, we specialize in leadership development. We teach people how to be the best change leaders they can possibly be – for their own personal growth and that of the whole organization. With a wide variety of leadership training programs and professional development modules, we focus on giving people the tools and know-how to create long-term, sustainable change required for high-performance organizations.


Aish Hinton

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