Introduction There has been a considerable body of literature dedicated to assisting organisational leaders in their endeavours to implement change (Holt, Self, Thal & Lo 2002). Many authors concur that the prime task of leaders is to bring about change and that leadership and change management are indeed inextricably linked (Burnes 2003, Stoker 2006, Maurer 2008). Robinson and Harvey (2008) maintain that the acceleration of globalisation has resulted in a tumultuous state of change as organisations struggle to adapt to new models of leadership.
Consequently, few would dispute that with such increasing globalisation, deregulation, rapid pace of technology and shifting social and demographic trends that leading organisational change is one of the most critical elements in the success of an organisation (Graetz 2000). With such a dynamic and unpredictable operating environment change leaders require a wide range of skills to successfully implement change management programs in different situations, contexts and circumstances.
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The purpose of this assignment is to conduct a literature review of organisational change literature for the period 2000 to 2008 to determine what skills an individual change leader would require to effect change management programs in different contexts and to develop new ways of approaching organisational change. The literature will establish that irrespective of the change management process adopted, effective change leaders are able to influence employee behaviour and organisational commitment through a charismatic leadership approach, comprising of visioning, interpersonal and communication skills.
The literature also suggests that although the human element is critical to the success of organisational change, technical dimensions including operational knowledge; strong analytical and diagnostic skills and excellent business strategy skills are also important features. This paper will address a number of issues including organisational change processes; charismatic influence strategies encompassing interpersonal skills, communication and emotional expressivity; dealing with resistance to change and technical dimensions of change.
Organisational change Ragsdell (2000) maintains that the intention of any organisational change is to move the organisation from its current state to a more desirable state. Beugelsdijk, Slangen and van Herpen (2001) point out that organisation change can be achieved through either incremental change or radical change, or through a process of interaction between these two types of change known as the punctuated equilibrium model of organisational change (Tushman & Romanelli in Beugelsdijk et al. 2001).
Studies over the past six decades suggest that organisations systematically apply multi-phase processes as leaders attempt to implement organisational change (Holt et al. 2003). Significant research has been performed in this field since Lewin’s (1947) model of unfreezing, moving and refreezing. A more contemporary model as espoused by Judson (in Holt et al. 2003) suggested a five-phase process consisting of analysing and planning for the change; communicating the change; gaining acceptance of new behaviours; changing from the status quo to a desired state; and consolidating and institutionalising the new state.
Kotter (in Holt et al. 2003) introduced an eight phase model which built upon Judson’s work by adding stages that require the establishment of a sense of urgency; the creation of a vision of the desired end result; and the planning for and creation of short-term wins. Brightman and Moran (2001) later rationalised this earlier work to develop a change management cycle encompassing the phases of understanding the current situation; determining the desired state and developing a change plan; enlisting others and developing a critical mass; and tracking and stabilising results.
Influence for change The common theme permeating through all of these processes is the need for a critical mass of employees accepting and actually embracing change. This is highlighted by Holt et al. (2003) who argue that regardless of the specific phases of the change process or which type of change model is used, the extent of success at the end of the process is affected by the leader’s ability to influence members of the organisation to adopt and implement change. Essentially these ‘influence strategies’ encourage affected mployees to adopt and exhibit the appropriate behaviours that translate into organisational gains (Holt et al. 2003). Landrum, Howell and Paris (2000) also point out the importance of being able to apply leadership skills that will gain commitment from followers and change attitudes, beliefs and if necessary the goals of followers. Accordingly, it can be seen that one of the skills a leader and indeed a change leader must possess is the ability to influence employees. This gives rise to establish what specific skills an individual change leader requires to exert this influence.
Graetz (2000) and Ellinger, Ellinger and Keller (2003) highlight that there has been a radical shift in the role of senior managers from the traditional authoritarian, command and control style to a more open, participative approach that emphasises a non-positional, team-based and empowering model. With the focus on cooperation, communication and collaboration, Graetz (2000) maintains that managers need to adopt a completely different range of leadership skills in addition to the traditional technical dimensions of management.
Stewart and O’Donnell (2007) and Graetz (2000) concur that to be effective in the changing environment, change leaders need to understand that the interpersonal dimension is a critical element. Bovey and Hede (2001) support this viewpoint by asserting that the vast majority of organisational change is managed from a technical perspective without recognising or understanding how the human element influences the success or the failure of change.
Charismatic leadership – behaviour or skill? Landrum et al. (2000) maintain that when an organisation is in need of strategic change, charismatic leaders are frequently recruited to lead this change, as they possess the skills to allow them to communicate a vision and generate the energy necessary for change programs to be successful. Burns (in Landrum et al. 2000) sees the charismatic leadership approach as reflecting the traits and behaviours that are necessary for initiating change.
Jung and Sosik (2006) provide a theoretical framework, explaining that charismatic leadership involves a higher level of social exchange between the leader and followers in which the leader exerts profound personal influence upon their followers. Groves (2006) proposed that the past decade of leadership theory and research has provided considerable support for the effectiveness of the charismatic leadership approach due to the focus on the leader’s creativity, communication and visioning skills.
This provokes debate as to whether the concept of charismatic leadership is a behaviour or style, or whether it can be considered a tangible skill required of a change leader. Sheard and Kakabadse (2004) categorise charismatic and transformational type leadership as behaviours and make recommendations to assist leaders to adapt their behaviour to become more context-sensitive to the needs of the environment as it changes. This approach tends to suggest an inherent human behaviour that can be adjusted contingent to the situation and circumstance.
However according to Towler (2003) and Frese, Beimel and Schoenborn (2003) charismatic influence behaviour is actually an acquirable skill that can be developed through appropriate training and development methods. These commentators suggest that a range of communication, interpersonal and visioning skills can be taught and developed to form the basis of the charismatic leadership approach. Groves (2006) provides an insight to another dimension of communication and visioning skills, the concept of ’emotional expressivity skills’.
Essentially these skills comprise of an emotionally expressive communication style, characterised by eye contact, facial expressiveness, effective gestures and vocal variety. Groves (2006) conducted a study involving 433 participants to assess how senior organisational leaders’ emotional expressivity contributed to their employee’s perceptions of visionary leadership, leadership effectiveness and organisational change.
The study found that leaders with high emotional expressivity skills were able to more powerfully articulate a compelling and viable vision to initiate organisational change by enhancing followers’ openness toward change; collective worth to radically transform the status quo; and trust in the leader’s vision. Groves (2006) concluded that leaders with high emotional expressivity skills facilitated the greatest organisational change in their respective organisations. Huy (2002) provides some empirical support to Groves (2006) findings, through n earlier three-year study into radical change on a large service-providing company in the information technology industry. Huy (2002) found that leaders who successfully facilitated organisational change displayed emotional commitment by personally championing the change and attending to change recipients’ emotions. Huy (2002) concluded that leaders with low emotional commitment to organisational change resulted in organisational inertia, whereas high commitment to change with minimal attention to change recipient’s emotions led to chaos.
Smith and Elmes (2002) also postulated that two essential skills for change leadership are vision and emotional intelligence, which they described as sensitivity to self and others and an awareness and understanding of emotions. Rowden (2000) further concluded that these two skills had a direct correlation to organisational commitment by employees. Managing resistance to change Regardless of an employee’s organisational commitment, Brightman and Moran (2001) believe that the minute the word ‘change’ is mentioned people start to react in either a negative, neutral or positive manner.
Marshall and Conner (in Ahn, Adamson & Dornbusch 2004) reason that resistance to change is inevitable, that individuals express resistance both covertly and overtly and that an emotional cycle of change resistance and acceptance should be expected and actively managed. Brightman and Moran (2001) suggest that the essence of dealing with resistance to change is a change leader’s ability to understand the ‘how and why’ each person reacts the way they do. Ahn et al. 2004) maintain that preparedness for resistance is the first condition of its effective management and that the consequences of resistance not being controlled can include a vicious circle in which any new initiative strengthens the resistance to further change. In dealing with resistance to change, Brightman and Moran (2001), Smith (2002), Holt et al. (2003) and Ahn et al. (2004) all suggest that change leaders need to be skilled in communicating the reasons for change and ensuring employee involvement in change.
Elving (2005) contends that one purpose of communication during organisational change is to prevent or at least reduce resistance to change. Armenakis, Harris and Field (in Holt et al. 2003) expanded upon the communication element by highlighting that change leaders need to be skilled in articulating the appropriateness of the change; support for the change and the value of the change. Allio (2005, p. 1076) provided a somewhat unconventional view by claiming that a ‘critical skill for a leader is rhetoric – characterised by Aristotle as the persuasive marshalling of truth’.
It is contended that the change leader must ensure ‘truth in communication’ as trustworthiness; credibility and moral worth are especially relevant to followers (Jung & Sosik 2006). Technical dimensions of change To date, this paper has emphasised the skills required of a change leader with respect to the interpersonal or human elements of change. Theorists also recognise that the technical dimension or operational aspect is critical. Nadler and Tushman (in Landrum et al. 2000) maintain that charismatic leadership is necessary, however is not sufficient alone for successful organisational change.
Some writers point out that charismatic leadership alone can even be damaging to organisations and followers. For example Janis (in Landrum et al. 2000) highlighted that charismatic leadership can lead followers into groupthink. Gerstein and Reisman (in Landrum et al. 2000) identify the main organisation requirements during change as rapid, accurate problem diagnoses and correcting short-term and long-term problems. They identify the skills required of a change leader as strong analytical and diagnostic skills; an excellent business strategist; handle pressure well; and good crisis management and negotiating skills.
Graetz (2000) and Landrum et al. (2000) suggest that change leadership can be rationalised into two distinct roles, the charismatic and instrumental dimensions. Graetz (2000) asserts the key elements of instrumental leadership are organisational design; control and reward; which involve managing environments to create conditions that motivate desired behaviour. Graetz (2000) explains that the two roles perform distinctive functions, however compliment and strengthen each other through the integration of operational know-how and strong interpersonal skills.
Caldwell (2003) commentates on this issue from a similar perspective, proposing skill sets under the ‘change leader’ and ‘change manager’ categories. Caldwell’s (2003) research into the technical aspects of organisational change, concluded that the ‘change manager’ requires skills in empowering others; team building; managing resistance; conflict resolution; knowledge of the business and problem solving. Essentially Caldwell’s (2003) work supports Graetz’s (2000) and Landrum et al. 2000) findings, particularly with Caldwell’s (2003) assertion that the roles of change leader and manager are often interchangeable because the skills required to lead and manage change are indivisible features of the managerial function in organisations facing the ever increasing challenges of coping with constant change. Conclusion This paper reviewed a body of organisational change literature for the period 2000 to 2008. The review demonstrated that in today’s continually changing environment that change leaders need to possess skills to effectively manage both the human and technical dimensions of organisational change.
The change leader must be skilled in realising and articulating the vision up, down and across the organisation. Moreover the change leader must be adept at influencing employee behaviour and organisational commitment through a charismatic leadership approach, comprising of visioning, interpersonal and communication skills. The literature also indicates that a change leader skilled in emotional expressivity and dealing with resistance to change will have a greater opportunity to effect organisational change.
The reviewed literature suggests that the human element is integral to successful organisational change, however change leaders also require skills associated with technical aspects including operational knowledge; strong analytical and diagnostic skills; and excellent business strategy skills. As highlighted by Caldwell (2003) these skills need to be interwoven and interchangeable across the human and technical dimensions, as elements of organisational change should not be considered as a dichotomy but inseparable aspects of the leadership and managerial functions. Reference List
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