Change Leadership vs. Change Management

Change leadership change management

Moving with urgency to actualize big visions.

One of my core messages to CEOs, team leaders, and middle management is rooted in the work of Harvard Professor and friend, Dr. John Kotter, leadership expert and business visionary. For years the business world has functioned the same way with the same hierarchical system, under the same unspoken set of rules and guidelines. Those who comply get rewarded and those who fall outside are removed. 

Change Management

Change management upholds, encourages, and reinforces this hierarchy. Even the American and European educational systems function around training students toward management, developing the managerial mindset of smooth-running productivity, high-level efficiency, avoiding hazards, and maintaining the status quo. Planning and problem solving with detailed budgets, staffing, and regulations are the primary tools to measure success and failure. Falling out of line with these standards generally results in negative movement and changes. 

Over-managed, under-led

The result of these amazing sets of managerial actions and behaviors have given us the modern-day corporation as we know it. Yet, in a world that is moving increasingly faster, where change is now continuous, many organizations end up over-managed and under-led by a factor of almost 4-to-1. A failure rate of 70% of all large-scale transformational change initiatives bears truth to this reality. 

The reason is that change management manages but doesn’t propel forward because its inherent purpose is to simplify processes, avoid risk, and keep things under control. Complexity and nuance are reduced and streamlined to keep productivity high and efficient. However, change management doesn’t lead to progress. Leadership does.

Management is associated with: 

  • Budgeting
  • Staffing
  • Regulating
  • Planning
  • Problem-solving

Change leadership to achieve big visions

Though closely termed, change leadership is a profoundly different concept and practice than change management—and it’s not just a matter of semantics. As noted by Harvard professor Dr. John Kotter, “These terms are not interchangeable. The distinction between the two is actually quite significant. Change leadership is about urgency and going after big dreams versus the change management method of keeping things under control and maintaining the status quo.”

Change leadership urgently and purposefully pursues big dreams. It equips people throughout the enterprise to empower those with traditional worker-bot roles to lead. Change leadership follows a specific, visionary, and strategic set of guidelines that shares power, listens to ideas, and values opinions regardless of title or position. Barriers get removed, employees’ interest is piqued, the buy-in is achieved, which creates an inspired workforce motivated toward action. Change Leadership becomes the engine that stimulates innovation, opportunity, and growth.

Change leadership is about multitudes of people who want to make something happen, empowering people throughout all organizational levels to achieve big visions.

Change leadership is associated with: 

  • Vision and strategy
  • Removing barriers
  • Getting buy-in
  • Motivating action
  • Inspiring people

Right now, the world talks about, thinks about, and executes “change management,” a process to keep things running efficiently and effectively day after day. The world doesn’t do much change leadership. With the rate of change increasing exponentially, the need to lead change is critical.

Relinquishing the status quo

This process can be challenging to engage in because change management is the well-worn and deeply furrowed path that has established business to function the hierarchical way it does. The status quo is not easily relinquished. Being difficult doesn’t mean to forgo embracing change leadership. My company, Tom Flick Leadership, exists for the sole purpose to inspirepoint the way, and guide leaders and their teams from the rutted path of change management into the bright and wide-open spaces of change leadership. It is where innovation, creativity, empowerment, and a better way forward exists. 

Though change management isn’t going to propel a business forward (which is not its job), appropriately and purposefully balanced with change leadership principles, working in tandem becomes the engine driving the vision forward. They work in partnership but in their appropriate and ideal amounts. 

Don’t wait

I can help your company strike this symbiotic balance. I can coach you through removing the barriers holding your company back. I can guide your teams in new methods for motivating action and navigating change, and new ways of actualizing your big vision. 

Change leadership will be a considerable challenge in the future, and the fact that almost nobody is very good at it is a very big deal, too. Let’s partner together to get your well-worn wagon off the status-quo path of only change management and draw out your people’s inherent talent to reach your full potential, transforming it into a free moving, efficient and innovative vehicle that makes its own path in its own way.