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Leadership and Organizational Change

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Leadership and Organizational Change

Leadership, Ethics & Team Management


Due to globalization, business trends and technologies are rapidly changing to satisfy customer’s rapidly changing wants. That’s why, companies need to change continuously to meet the current demand of customers and prepare for future trends. In addition, organizations need to adapt on continuous basis in order to maintain their competitive advantage over other companies. The purpose of this paper is to offer a detailed analysis on the role of leadership in organizational change. This paper will review the definition of leadership giving some examples of true leaders. Then it will discuss phases of organizational change, barriers impeding change, competencies a leader should have to facilitate change and types of leadership styles needed at each phase in organizational change.


Organizational change has become inevitable to maintain competitiveness and improve the internal and external functionality (Caetano, 1999).  Survival in the market has become extremely difficult in organizations who don’t adopt change (Boston, MA, 2000).Organizational change offers the organization a competitive advantage, improves financial performance and enhances employee satisfaction which in turn leads to sustainability. Although change is very challenging and requires continuous planning and execution, it leads to future success. It also allows them to adapt with the changes in the environment and obtain market advantage over other competitors (Robbins, 1999). Now, organizations are facing both internal and external forces pressure that makes change inevitable. As a matter of fact, there is always a pressure on organizations to balance these forces. The need for change also comes from the pressure the organizations face which includes managing the customers’, employees and management expectations and change is needed to satisfy these expectations. (Fleming & Senior , 2006).  

Literature Review

     Management includes four major functions: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. Leadership is an important function of management and imposes itself as an art of moving forward without leaving anyone behind (Armashe, 2009). “Leaders are individuals who establish direction for a working group of individuals and who gain commitment from this group of members to established direction and who then motivate members to achieve the direction’s outcomes” (Conger, 1992, p18).

    There are many leaders in our world that succeeded in causing change. One of the most influential and spiritual leaders that have walked our world is Mahatma Gandhi who led an entire nation against the tyranny of the British nation. Ghandi is an example of an effective leader who knows how much and when force should be used. Ghandi is an example of a person who had been dissatisfied and had challenged the status quo leading to a shift in the paradigm of combating tyranny as he fought silently and practiced Ahinsa or non-violence. He had a vision imprinted in his mind of leading the entire nation into freedom. He utilized personal power inspiring an entire nation to believe that the truth will prevail without any harm and he showed resistance by using disobedience movements and boycotts of foreign goods (Ray, 2012).Another leader that led an organization to one of the best companies in the world in a short period of time is Steve Jobs. He had a clear vision for the company and that encouraged employees to “think different” and encouraged innovation to make a successful organizational change (Horbaczewski & Rothaermel, 2013). According to Rothaermel & Horbaczewski (2013), Job was always up for new ideas and challenges as long as they were different and creative he posted such as “change the world” and “it’s better to be a pirate than join the navy” which also aided him in inspiring his employees to work up to his vision (Rothaermel & Horbaczewski, 2013).

     Before we tackle organizational change it is very important to have a clear understanding of the change concept.  The word change refers to the alteration of an existing thing by adding some values in order to make it different or better (A. Vandermerwe, & S. Vandermerwe, 1991). Planned Change is a process that has been first identified by Lewin in the year 1947 by three phases (Lewin, 1947). These three phases include: (1) Unfreezing, (2) Movement (3) Refreezing.

  1. Unfreezing

The first phase is unfreezing which starts by complete understanding of the urge to change and the need to abandon the current state of comfort for the sake of a better future. (Lewin, 1947).

  1. Movement

The second phase is movement which involves creating a new setup to move forward after defying fears. In other words, it is the stage of implementing change which becomes real. It is the time where people can experience uncertainty and fear from the change. Therefore, education, communication and support are highly needed to have a smooth change (Lewin, 1947).

  1. Refreezing

The third phase, known as the refreezing which encompasses acceptance of change as a main norm in any organization and part of daily practice (Lewin, 1947). In this phase, efforts should be made to make sure the change is not lost but rather cemented into the organization’s culture.

   Leaders appear to play a vital role in driving the organization towards success by optimizing its performance. As part of their vision, it is important to identify the barriers to change and work accordingly to shift the mentality of their subordinates for them to accept change.  According to Kennedy (2000), effective leadership is necessary for change.  It is obvious that change necessitates the well competent leaders who are the key players in managing the resistance to change and converting this resistance into an action plan paving the way to success. Brookfield (1995) emphasizes three major barriers to organizational change which are the following: culture of secrecy, culture of individualism, and culture of silence. Mixed feelings of fear, lack of security and unawareness are major causes of secrecy (Brookfield, 1995). Fear is not only restricted to managers but can also affect employees. For example; some managers are haunted by fear that captivates them from suggesting or even accepting change in their organization. Sometimes, employees also fear their managers and therefore decide to be silent. Although employees know that their manager has done a mistake and has taken the wrong decision but their fear prevents them from giving their opinion. Another barrier to change may be individualism.     According to Brookfield (1995), although individualism plays its role in the corporate life, but the lack of a collectivist approach may lead to inefficiency, undeserved promotions and clashes. The third barrier is silence as many employees are afraid to give their opinion as they fear the negative response of their manager and some organizations encourage silence (Brookfield, 1995).



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