What is change leadership? (With benefits, tips and skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 21 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Change leadership can be a useful tool for managers who are responsible for a team of employees. It's a form of leadership that encourages implementing effective improvements across a business to foster stronger relationships with staff. Change leadership is a useful way to keep businesses relevant, current and ready for unexpected situations or new technologies. In this article, we answer the question ' What is change leadership?' and offer several tips and useful skills to help you become a successful change leader.

What is change leadership?

In answer to the question 'What is change leadership?', it's a management style that focuses on making improvements and creating a more adaptable workplace. Change leadership is usually implemented by change leaders. These are individuals who push for change within a company that benefits staff, shareholders and customers. Change leaders look for ways to bring about change productively so that organisations are better equipped to make strategic changes in the way they function.

It's a form of leadership that offers dynamic change, such as implementing new technologies or building resources to handle external challenges. Change leaders are at the forefront of the changes brought into an organisation. Some changes that a change leader is responsible for include:

  • Switching to digital: Most organisations that are trying to stay relevant look to digital platforms to improve their operations and entice customers. A good example of this is the push for digital platforms for fast-food delivery, as many restaurants now have an online menu and takeaway ordering system in place to attract online customers.

  • Social media: Social media has quickly become a useful tool for companies to establish their brand online and reach a wider audience. Change leaders can encourage further growth across different demographics and locations by using social media.

  • Response plans: Change leaders work on response plans for a variety of scenarios relating to health and safety or natural disasters. For example, a tough flu season might mean companies provide more sick leave for staff or extra resources to work from home.

  • New technology: Technology has shown its worth across many industries as a way to improve how businesses operate, use information or organise data. Change leaders work to pinpoint the best software to implement into a business to improve operations.

  • Training: Change leaders are responsible for guiding the training process and creating new ways to encourage learning from within an organisation. This might include creating new training programmes or resources, creating coaching sessions or bringing in third parties to demonstrate new procedures.

Related: Innovative examples at work: definition and examples

What are the benefits of change leadership for businesses?

Change leadership offers many benefits to organisations that can improve how businesses operate. Some of these benefits include:

Problem-solving

Change leadership encourages adaptability, so when an issue presents itself, companies are more able to overcome any obstacles. This includes internal factors and external ones, such as dips in the economy. For example, during periods of low productivity, a change leader might find ways to change it, such as implementing training or streamlining operations.

Brand strength

A change leader can help strengthen the branding of a company by developing and executing innovative marketing strategies. This expands the reach of the business and creates a wider audience. A good example of this might be a company advocating for sustainability and coupling this with marketing campaigns that raises awareness around the business's sustainability efforts.

Improved revenue

A change leader can increase revenue for a company by implementing new ways of operating. From expanding into new markets to lowering operating costs, change leaders can find ways to make companies more money. For example, to expand the reach of the business, a change leader might implement an online store for products that would increase sales.

Increased efficiency

Change leadership can help improve the efficiency of company operations to streamline how they work. This can take many forms but ultimately improves how a company functions. An example of this might be implementing automation along the manufacturing line to reduce human error and speed up production.

Creates a positive working environment

Optimism is a large component of change leadership, which encourages a more positive approach to work. This can follow through into the workplace itself, which improves the mood of the staff and boosts morale. A change leader might look to implement work methods or approaches that focus on the welfare of staff, which helps foster a more positive working environment.

Promotes inclusivity

Change leadership promotes inclusivity by making the workplace more accessible, with fewer barriers for entry. This can take many forms, from flexible working patterns to more paid time off for staff. Ultimately, it's about accommodating individuals in the workplace, which means understanding their limitations.

Related: How to improve leadership skills (With additional tips)

Tips for becoming an effective change leader

Being a change leader can help businesses grow and streamline their operations. To become an effective change leader, follow these tips:

  • Consider the complete picture: An effective change leader looks at a business with a bigger picture in mind, which might mean reaching for more long-term business goals or thinking about the effects of the changes made to an organisation. Change leaders can visualise ways to improve a business so that it invigorates shareholders and staff, and they can also factor in the amount of work or staff required to make any changes they implement.

  • Create plans: Change leaders are excellent at making a plan and using it, which can involve calendars to track projects or implementing storyboards to visualise progress. A change leader can use these tools to effectively manage, prioritise and complete projects on time.

  • Trust others with tasks: Delegation is an important part of a change leader's process, as it allows them to effectively use the talents of staff where they're most beneficial. This requires a good understanding of staff and confidence in their abilities and makes allocating resources much easier across projects.

  • Celebrate every victory: Even if it's a small win, celebrating victories brings positivity and optimism into the workplace, which change leaders use to motivate others. Things like providing positive feedback to staff or hosting in-office parties are great ways to celebrate these victories.

  • Ask for feedback: Change leaders are constantly looking for ways to improve how they work, which is why asking for feedback is so important. Whether it's feedback from senior managers or entry-level staff, it can be crucial information that helps them identify room for growth and change.

  • Know the industry: Understanding the industry is an important aspect of an effective change leader's approach. Knowing what the industry leaders are doing can help change leaders optimise their operations while also keeping them informed about the latest innovations in the industry so that they can choose to be early adopters.

  • Be compassionate: Change is a period of uncertainty for individuals and businesses, so it's important to be compassionate as the change occurs. This includes supporting staff who may struggle with these changes and providing them with the right tools to adapt effectively.

Related: How to demonstrate leadership with tips and examples

Important skills for change leadership

There are a number of important skills that bolster change leadership and make it easier to innovate from within. Some of these important skills include:

Communication

Communication across all levels of a company is essential for change leadership to be effective. This is because any changes brought into the business can affect the company, from low-level employees to senior management. It also reinforces the significance of the changes by communicating how they connect to the overarching mission and vision of the business.

Related: The importance of communication objectives (with examples)

Collaboration

Change leaders are responsible for guiding individuals and groups through any innovations or changes brought into the business. This often involves bringing in teams to collaborate with one another and using them to guide the decision-making process. Collaboration has the added benefit of encouraging staff to implement these changes and motivates staff by including them in the decision-making process.

Related: Collaboration Skills: Definitions and Examples

Determination

It's important for a change leader to fight through any challenges and meet their goals for the benefit of the company. This requires an optimistic attitude that is persistent so that you can overcome even the most challenging situations. Determination is essential here, especially when implementing difficult changes in the workplace, as they may want to defend their ideas if things don't go as planned.

Related: 6 simple tips for how to work hard and stay motivated

Optimism

An optimistic outlook is an important component of effective change leadership. An optimistic attitude increases the overall quality of results and can boost the chances of success. If change leaders remain optimistic about their changes, other members of staff pick up on this and also feel optimistic. This creates a positive feedback loop that gets the best out of staff.

Curiosity

Change leadership requires a curious mindset to innovate or implement change in the workplace. This might involve asking questions about processes or researching new approaches to working. Curiosity is also a useful skill to have because change leaders are more likely to look into the feedback they receive from superiors or colleagues.

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