10 Reasons Change Succeeds or Fails: Leader Ability and Willingness to Change

See all of the 10 Reasons Change Succeeds or Fails posts here. And download the full whitepaper here

We have found that there are ten factors that determine the success or failure of any organizational change.  In this series, we will examine each of these factors.  The eighth factor is the leader’s ability and willingness to change.

Organizations that are most effective at driving change understand that awareness, desire and knowledge are not sufficient.  Change also requires the demonstrated capability to adapt and evolve behaviors and outcomes.  They also understand that effective change starts at the top.  It requires leaders to demonstrate their ability and willingness to change their own behavior.  How are these organizations approaching leadership’s ability and willingness to change to achieve successful outcomes?

First, these organizations understand that change isn’t any easier for senior leaders.  In fact, previous success may make it even harder for senior leaders to realize why they need to change.  Time and resources must be devoted to ensuring alignment among the senior leadership about the need for change.  External and internal coaches help leaders understand what in their behavior needs to change.  And when someone is unable to change, these organization make the difficult but necessary decision to replace that individual.

Second, these organizations demand that their leaders model the change for others.  Leadership means being a step ahead and demonstrating the type of change you expect from the remainder of the organization.  Coaches, whether external or internal, can be particularly helpful in providing feedback on whether a leader’s interactions with others are, in fact, modeling the appropriate change.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are organizations that fail to effectively implement the changes they attempt.  Here leaders feel that change for others is fine but do not see the need to change themselves.  They are all about “fixing” everyone else – or delegating responsibility for change.  They demand change from their staff but fail to be effective role models for the desired change.  It is guaranteed that if the senior leadership doesn’t model the change, it won’t happen in the broader organization.

Where is your organization on this spectrum?  If you don’t feel that you have a leadership team that is able and willing to change, consider the following:

  • How widespread is the problem? Broad or limited to a few individuals?
  • Have we devoted sufficient time to helping leaders understand the need to change and what is expected of them? If not, how can that be addressed?
  • What time and resources have we devoted to helping leaders understand how to model the appropriate change?
  • What coaching resources could be enlisted to assist leaders and to provide feedback?
  • For those that can’t seem to make the transition, do we have an effective succession plan in place?