Leadership can come in many different forms, from starting a campaign for a non-profit organization to promoting energy-saving practices in a workplace. It is particularly needed in times of great change or transition. This is part of an essay I wrote for a class on conflict specialists as leaders a few years ago that is relevant to this site. While it is based on an organizational context in general, it is equally applicable to any kind of institutions, businesses and non-profits.

The pace of change is much greater today than it was a century ago, and in order for organizations to be successful under these changing circumstances, the presence of strong leadership is needed.[i] Because change is a natural and inevitable process in organizations, as well as the way for organizational growth and success, leaders should embrace change and assist others in the process. Additionally, effective change leadership involves addressing human needs, as well as issues associated with the process. However, organizational change is underpinned by a vision and set of values, which may or may not be shared by everyone.[ii] Effective change management is a combined effort between leaders, employees and/or anyone else involved in the change process, which ensures that organizational change fits with the people in the organization and that everyone’s needs are met.

Transformational leadership is an effective leadership style for leading organizational change by addressing human dynamics, which can reduce resistance to change.[iii] Lasting organizational change requires authentic leadership that attends to all four human dimensions (cognitive, spiritual, emotional, and behavioural), as well as alignment of values in order to prevent resistance to change.[iv] Rather than leaders focusing on changing people to fit with organizational changes, it is much easier and more effective to focus on shifting the way people perceive change, which can be achieved through changing the way people talk about change.[v] Leaders must also understand the psychological impacts of change on people because when people do not have their core needs met, they will not be receptive to other change efforts.[vi] Lastly, all of the work involved in organizational change does not have to be placed upon leaders themselves, as people from all levels of the organization are capable of coming up with innovative ideas to managing change, and people will be more likely to accept changes if they contributed to the process.[vii] In other words, change efforts will be more sustainable when they come from the bottom and move upward, rather than from the top down.


[i] Bridges, W. (2009) e-book. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Cambridge,

MA: Perseus Publishing. Chapters 1, 3 to 5.

[ii] Jackson, P., & Burnes, B. (2011). Success and failure in organizational change: An exploration

of the role of values. Journal of Change Management, 11(2), 133-162.


[iii] Anderson, D., Ackerman-Anderson, L. S., & Ebooks Corporation. (2010). Beyond change

management: How to achieve breakthrough results through conscious change leadership. San Francisso,

CA: Pfeiffer.

[iv] Gill, Roger (2003) Change management – or change leadership? Journal of Change

Management. 3(4): 307-318.

[v] Karp, T., & Helgø, T. (2008). From change management to change leadership: Embracing chaotic

change in public service organizations. Journal of Change Management, 8(1), 85-96.


[vi] Anderson, D., Ackerman-Anderson, L. S., & Ebooks Corporation. (2010). Beyond change

management: How to achieve breakthrough results through conscious change leadership. San Francisso,

CA: Pfeiffer.

[vii] Bommer, W. H., Rich, G. A., & Rubin, R. S. (2005). Changing attitudes about change: Longitudinal

effects of transformational leader behavior on employee cynicism about organizational change. Journal of

Organizational Behavior, 26(7), 733-753. doi:10.1002/job.342

Emily Lewis is an environmental and social justice advocate with a Master’s degree in Dispute Resolution.

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