Change Leadership or Change Management?

I’ve been playing with this conundrum for some time:

“Do change managers make good change leaders or do change leaders make good change managers?”

The origins of my challenge here, come from discussions I had back in April around leadership development being part of change management, or maybe it’s the other way round. When you look at the expectations of senior, experiences and developed change managers, their leadership qualities are paramount. The greater the strategic importance of the change, the greater the leadership needs, and I could spend a whole other conversation on strategic change needs… but not today!

I think my challenge here comes from the words again (not an uncommon problem for me, see my previous posts) and the traditional view of manager versus leader. We use the term or label change manager for someone who executes change management, but significant requirements for that effective execution, requires leadership qualities in abundance. Conundrum part one!

face offWho is a change leader? Change leader is the term often used to describe a senior manager, accountable and sponsoring a change event, who is in a leadership role, yet is not a change management person. I guess we say change leaders are like the change sponsor and a good change leader will be the advocate, ambassador or agent to promote the values of the change to the organization; the PR/Marketing/Seller/Advertiser of the change.

I found myself speaking with an individual at a recent conference concerning a lack of change leadership in their troubled change event. I was effectively talking about a lack of engaged promotion from the leadership to support and promote the change – the passive aggressive resister was in full force! But it made me realise that when we talk about change leadership, we don’t always get the full leadership elements in there yet what’s missing is probably present in the leadership elements of change management, or at least strategic change management activity.

So if I break it down, I think a good quality change manager will have leadership qualities, but may not be a change leader. However I think a good quality change leader can have leadership, management and change management qualities and to successfully lead a change they should all be present.

The unfortunate situation arises in appointing change leaders, to lead a change without and change management skills or knowledge. Maybe a competency should be encouraged for leadership, change leadership and change management to be present in those being made change leaders? What do you think?

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