Change leadership vs. change management

On Wednesday 27 April 2022, Geoff Colvin, one of the senior editors of Fortune, made this comment: “The best bet is that, just as workers won’t go all the way back to the office and shoppers won’t go all the way back to physical stores, business leaders won’t go all the way back to pre-pandemic leadership.”


A direct imperative of post-pandemic leadership is that, with immediate effect, business leaders are called upon to be actively involved in change leadership, as distinct from change management. Since change is a process of taking a business on a journey from its current state to a desired future state and dealing with all the problems that arise along the journey, change is about leadership as well as management.


Change Leadership is about showing the way: using personal power to win the hearts and minds of people to work together towards a common goal.


Change Management is about controlling and executing a specific change process. Successful business change leaders must see communication as a critical part of their change leadership role. When communicating they focus on the why of the change as well as the what.


Their communications become even more powerful when they are connected to the values of the business. They ensure that they are engaged in a process that develops a clear vision and case for change, as well as alignment around achieving it.


Successful business change leaders pay attention to those who can influence others and bring them on board with the change. They don’t assume they have all the answers or that they won’t make mistakes. They learn from their own experience and they learn from others along the way.


Successful business change leaders don’t expect others to commit to changes that they are not fully on board with themselves. They experience their own discomfort while moving through change but are persistent in sustaining the change process until the desired results are achieved. By contrast, unsuccessful leaders are impatient with results and do not display an ongoing commitment.




Roger Gill: Journal of Change Management. Roger is the Director of the Research Centre for Leadership

Studies at The Leadership Trust

Change Management vs. Change Leadership. John Kotter, chief innovation officer at Kotter International

Brian Gorman, Managing Editor of Change Management Review

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