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CREATING POSITIVE CHANGE: The Ultimate Test of Leadership

Don Stepherson V. Calda, Ma.Ed.


Leadership and Management of Change Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Management Department of Graduate Studies Divine Word College of Calapan Infantado St. Calapan City (043) 288-8686 local 108 / (043) 441-0553 +63917-558-3645

March 2012

Leadership means making a difference, creating a positive change; providing the impetus that creates an atmosphere of change that improves the world, or at least the small part of the world around us; leadership is characterized by sustained action over time. Leadership is the stretch of changing things that can be changed, of providing new thinking, new energy, to the current situation. These are the words uttered by Dr. Marjorie Bowman (2010), a famous medical doctor and professor in Pennsylvania when asked about her definition of leadership. These words are also my main theme is exploring the idea of leaders being change makers. Leaders acting as change makers creating positive change in the society are best exemplified by their subtle actions that lead to positive changes or differences in the community where he or she belongs. But let us first discover the value of leadership. It is said that few things are more important to human activity than leadership. Effective leadership helps a nation through times of peril and confusion. In a larger sense, it makes a business organization successful. It enables foundation and different agencies to fulfill its mission. Parents effective leadership enables children to grow strong and healthy and at the same time productive and responsible members of the society (Mills, 2005). The absence of leadership then is equally dramatic in its effects. Without leadership, organizations move

too slowly, stagnate and lose their ways. Companies will move without any sense of direction. Much of the literature available about organizations stresses decision-making and implies that decision-making is timely, complete, and correct, then things will go well. Yet, a decision by itself changes nothing. After a decision is made, an organization faces the problem of implementation how to get things done in a timely and effective way. Problem of implementation are really issues about how leaders influence the behavior of the people and workers around him. Leaders task should change the course of events and overcome resistance so that the organization will move forward with a sense of direction. Leadership, in this sense, is crucial in implementing decisions successfully. Each of us, members of the society recognizes the importance of leadership when we vote for our government and political leaders. We realize that it matters who is in office so there will be equal participation in government affairs. With this, we participate in elections to choose the best candidate that would definitely impart change in the society. In business, investors recognize the importance of business leadership when they say that a good leader can make a success of a weak business plan, but that a poor leader can ruin even the best plan (Mills, 2005).

Generally, we define leadership as a process by which one person influences that thoughts, attitudes and behaviors of others. Leaders set a direction for the rest of the members; they help the members to see what lies ahead; they help the members to visualize what the organization or the community might achieve; leaders encourage and inspire the members. But the definition does not stop there. After setting direction and encouraging people to move and support the aim of the group, then leaders will definitely create positive changes and will make the group progressive. If these happen, then leaders are then underwent the true test of leadership. Without leadership, a group of human beings quickly degenerates into argument and conflict, because they see things in different ways and learn toward different solutions. Leadership helps to point out in the same direction and harness our efforts jointly (Bass, 1985). Leadership is the ability to get other people to do something significant that they might not otherwise do. As creators of positive change, leaders energize people toward a goal. But the ability of a leader to create positive change is highly influenced by his followers. Daft (2005) posits that without followers, leaders are not leaders although followers may only come after a long wait. True leadership is sometimes hard to distinguish from false leadership, which is merely a form of pretending. Let us take

the example of Winston Churchill. During the 1930s, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965) was the foremost opponent of appeasement of Germany. At the time, with fresh memories of the First World War, the public did not wish to listen. However, by September 1939 Britain was at war with Germany and in May 1940, Churchill became Prime Minister. His Premiership brought a new energy to the organization of the war effort. His stirring speeches and public visits helped galvanize public opinion to continue the fight against Nazism. His leadership was particularly vital in 1940-41, the period between the Nazi conquest of much of Europe and the entry into the war of Russia and America (United Kingdom Parliament, 2012). Churchill urged his fellow Englishmen to face the coming threat from Hitlers Germany. Most of the Englishmen preferred to believe that Hitler could be appeased do that a war could be avoided. They were engaged in wishful thinking about the future and denial that the future would be dangerous. They resented Churchill for insisting that they must face danger. They rejected his leadership. He had very few followers. But finally, reality intruded Germany went too far and war began. At this point, Churchill was acclaimed for his foresight, and became prime minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. During this period, almost all of Englishmen accepted his leadership willingly. Churchill was a real and great leader. He established positive changes in

the life of the people during the time of peril. But there are also people who wish to appear to be leaders, but are not actually. Many people, even in our world today, say that they are leading others; they posture as if they are setting direction and inspiring others. Yet often they are merely pretending. Mills (2005) cited the old saying that the way to become a leader is to find a parade and run to the front of it. We often refer to a person leading a parade, but walking at the front is not really leadership unless the person in front is actually choosing the direction! If the person in this situation is not choosing the direction, Mills (2005) said, and then being at the front of the line is merely a way to pretend to be a leader. Leadership can be used for good or ill. In the Second World War, Hitler seemed to be a leader of the German people, but he set an evil direction. He had great leadership skill, but put them to terrible uses. Sometimes people in business use leadership skills to exploit others. Sometimes, people in charitable organizations and foundations use leadership skills to benefit themselves rather than the people who are needy, helpless and are supposed to be helped. Leadership skills can be perverted to pursue bad ends. Then if this is the case, what is the ultimate test of leadership? We will now go back to the definition of leadership by Dr. Bowman (2010):

Leadership means making a difference, creating a positive change; providing the impetus that creates an atmosphere of change that improves the world or at least the small part of the world around us; leadership is characterized by sustained action over time. Leadership is the stretch of changing things that can be changed, of providing new thinking, new energy, to the current situation This definition will give us the idea that leadership does not only rely on talents, skills, potentials or initiatives. Leadership tends to create positive changes tangible results towards the betterment of the community. Leaders then, aside from being the frontier, should be change-makers. Heraclitus, a wise man from antiquity, once said that the only thing remains constant is change (Alkahtani, 2011). In this age of social confusion and conflict, the societys needs keep changing. This issue keeps arising at present. The world has become faster-paced now more than before. Kotter and Cohen (1996) mentioned that the rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon and he added that the competition in most industries will probably speed up more in the next few decades. In this situation, the requirements for being leaders have also changed. Leaders should be able to adapt to changes, and at the same time, implement change. Daft (2005) points out that the management and leadership environment has changed from stability to uncertainty. In this relation, Yukl (2002) stated the definition of leadership nowadays is a process of interaction

between leaders and subordinates where a leader attempts to influence the behavior, actions and attitudes of his or her subordinates to accomplish the organizational goals positively. Krause (2004) also mentioned the leadership is described as the selection of bases of positive influence. With these novel definitions of leadership, there is only one noticed variable leaders are creators of positive change. For true leaders, creating positive change can be disorienting (Badaracco, 2002). Most people tend to dislike change because it deviates from patterns of stability and can breed uncertainty and fear. How leaders manage change in an organization speaks volumes to how change is accepted by the members, subordinated or stakeholders. Acknowledging the characteristics of change are vital, however, and it must first be noted that change is inevitable, non-linear, must come from the top down and the bottom up as a shared responsibility and change involves important personal dimensions that cannot be overlooked (Goodwin, 2006). Adaptation to change has become a common agenda for leaders today. The later decades of the twentieth century will go down to history as an era of perpetual change (Noer, 1997). According to Bainbridge (1996), change is no longer an irregular outing, an inconvenient upheaval to be undertaken once every ten years. Change is something we have to learn to live with, to structure and to

manage. Change is here to stay, and the winners will be the ones who cope with it. This has been the challenge for modern leaders: create effective change. One of the most common and potentially divisive topics in work organizations centers on change. There are people who think their work organization is too changeable while others think their organization is too complacent (Bruhn, 2004). Change is considered good when it has beneficial effects. When change threatens the position of security, then this change is destructive and unnecessary. Because of this, many people tend to become critics of change that leaders that manages change. Leaders of change, who in one way or another imprinted positive change become experts in growing their organization. Thus, they create and lead change. Other leaders see change as an intrusion and try to minimize its effects on their organization. Nevertheless, leaders should be able to initiate positive change in their respective line of work. In our society, we consider leaders as role models who keep their eye on their organizations mission while they adapt to changing environment and maintain a forward momentum (Bennis, 1997). Leaders who lead positive change and those who manage it have the same objective i.e. achieve organizational goals. Leadership is accepting responsibility to create conditions that enable others to achieve shared purpose in the face of

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uncertainty. Leaders accept responsibility not only for their individual part of the work, but also for the collective whole. Leaders can create conditions interpersonally, structurally, and/or procedurally. The need for leadership (a need often not met) is evident when encounters with the uncertain demand adaptive, heuristic, or innovative response: past practices are breached, new threats loom, a sudden opportunity appears, social conditions change, and new technology changes the rules, and so on (Heifetz, 1998). With such work scenario, leaders primary goal is to lead change to avoid such uncertainty. We have already established the role of leaders in creating positive change towards success. The next question is how do leaders initiate positive change? The initiatives will be the ultimate test of leadership and its result. The key process in the success of initiating positive change for organizational and group leaders is understanding and insight about the process of change and the key drivers that make for successful change in practice. The presence of change knowledge and initiatives of leaders do not guarantee success, but its absence ensures failures (Barber & Fullan, 2005). It is not easy to rectify this deficit. Policy makers who are leaders in their own rights do not want to be slowed down by knowledge of change. It takes time to address this knowledge even

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though, ironically, they are eventually slowed down even more by failed implementation. Leaders believe that change is disruptive, messy and complicated (Wilson, 1992). Even with the best laid plans, events rarely occur as they were predicted. Nadler (1998) argued that real change in real organization is intensely personal and enormously political. Change processes entail not only structures and the way of doing tasks but also the performance, expectations and perceptions of all involved parties. Change has become widespread and unpredictable, but still manageable. Leaders who really wanted to introduce change to create positive result must be able to live in this principle. To effectively adapt change, leaders have a daunting task ahead of them in a variety of operational ad procedural areas. Processes involving change must be redesigned and redefined and adapted to certain geographical and cultural settings. In this way, leaders will be able to understand the structure being changed. Leadership styles and management procedures must also shift and adapt, and ways of customer and stakeholder relations should be in parallel with the desired change. Technological advances and capabilities must also be introduced, and preparation of workforce to with the new systems is needed (Bainbridge, 1996). The creation and design of change processes within the organization is most often a role of leaders within

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it. Change processes which encompass human resources, information technology adoption and upgrades, tools and techniques as well as basic rules and controls within the organization are the mandate of leaders engaged in the management change. Thus, a leader who proposed for change should be able to look at the entirety of the processes before initiating change. Leaders must be able to study, refine and execute changes in such a way that it would be beneficial not only to the organization but to all its members. It is up to the leaders to make these changes initiatives tangible rather than abstract and to awaken the enthusiasm and ownership of the proposed changes within the structure and workforce of the organization. To use the words of Bainbridge (1996), a myriad of details and effects must be acknowledged and addressed for successful adaption to change in all sectors of an organization. Nadler (1998) emphasized the importance of leaders in organizing and maintaining a climate of change within the organization. Although participation of all the members of the organization is needed, the role of leaders in the change process and creating positive result out of it is crucial. Dubbed as the champions of change (Nadler, 1998), it is the leaders, - the top management players who keep the change process moving while maintaining the operational integrity of the organization anchored towards tangible results. Leaders

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promoting change provide direction, protection, orientation, conflict control, and the shaping of norms while overseeing the change process within the corporate structure (Conger, et al., 1999). Furthermore, Conger et al. (1999) identified steps in creating change and transforming an organization namely: a) establishing a sense of urgency; b) forming a powerful guiding coalition; c) creating a vision; d) communicating the vision; e) empowering others to act on the vision; f) planning for and creating short-term wins; and h) institutionalizing new approaches. These approaches should be learned by leaders who wanted to adapt change. Bainbridge (1996) outlined a five-step process of redesign for leaders undergoing and initiating planned change. The five steps included: a) the design stage to determine overall requirements; b) the definition stage where the design is specified and documentation of the design stage requirements occurs; c) the development stage, where new capabilities are cultivated through training, education and restricting; d) the dismantling stage, where redundant parts of the organization are removed or converted into new capabilities; and e) the deployment stage, where new capabilities are introduced into the new organizational movement, both internally and externally. This design process should be accomplished by leaders within carefully arranged process architecture. Bainbridge (1996) added

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that this design process includes the link to strategic objectives, the definition of measures and the production of the high-level design itself. The vision of change must be expressed as clearly as possible and used consistently to spearhead every step of the change design process, including the specification of design principles. Pettigrew (1988) pointed out the wisdom of considering the content, the context and the process of change within the organization. For leaders, Pettigrew (1988) added that the need to explore the content, context and the processes of change must be done in due time. Amid all the advances and advantages for leaders to create change, Noer (1997) still cautioned leaders not to rely too heavily on external tools for change. The leader, as a person, is the most important tool for change. The leaders spirit, insight, wisdom, compassion, values and learning skills are all important facets in the capabilities to lead others to embrace change. To be lasting, deep change must only be made amidst organizational layers, but within each of the players themselves (Noer, 1997). Deep personal change can be uncomfortable, yet the need of each member of the organization, not only the leader, to become empowered and internally driven is essential for the success in this era of change and involvement. The leader who instigates change within an organization desire positive result, though, often subject to speculative

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suspicion. Nadler (1998) agreed that implementing change faces resistance and crossroads. The transition stage introduced by a leader, where the change process is instigated must be handled expertly and with enthusiasm. Leaders must own and align the proposed changes, setting expectations, and modeling and communicating the rationale to all members of the organization who, in one way or the other, will affect by the proposed changes. Quinn (1996) enthused that we are all leaders thus, all potential change agents. Leaders discipline their talents; deepen their perceptions about what is possible. Having experienced deep change in them metanioa leaders are able to bring deep change to the systems around them, thus, creating positive change towards the accomplishment of the goals set. Leaders who have embraced deep change personally are able to design change processes that reflect a heroic yet enlightened leader stance, one that imparts enthusiasm and vitality into the other members and creates a new perspective of the logic and wisdom of moving with the flow of change. To survive the effects of continuous change, leaders need to accomplish three major tasks namely: a) to shape the political dynamics of the change process; b) to motivate change; and c) to manage the transition period (Nadler, 1998).

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In conclusion, leaders are responsible for setting the context of change within the organization. A culture and vision

must be cultivated to support the planned change and at the same time, deal with unplanned change. Leaders must be able to counsel, teach and coach all the people to be affected by change so they may be able to properly adapt to the flow of change. For lasting change to occur, the general identity of the organization must be congruent with the vision and goals inherent in the change process proposed. To use the words of Conger et al. (1999), leaders should share fundamental characteristics that allow them to enable organizational members in the change process. In the end, leaders who create positive change are adjudged not only with the result but also overcoming the limits brought about by the introduced change. Leaders should have the vision for the greater potential of the organization. The litmus and ultimate test then of a true leader is his ability to create positive changes in an organization and the lives of the people relying in it.

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References:

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Kinsey, S. (2010). Quiet leadership: how to create positive change without the noise and negativity. Journal of Extension, 48, 1-4. Kotter, J. & Cohen, D. (1996). The heart of Change: Real Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations Krause, D. (2004). Influence-based leadership as a determinant of the inclination to innovate and of innovation-related behaviors. An empirical investigation. The Leadership Quarterly, 15,79-102. Mills, Q. (2005). The Importance of Leadership. Retrieved March 20, 2012, from http://www.mindedgepress.com/PDFs/htlhtl.pdf. Nadler, D. (1998). Champions of change: How CEOs and their companies are mastering the skills of radical change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Noer, D. (1997). Creating strategic change: designing flexible, high-performing organization. New York: John Wiley. Pettigrew, A. (ed.) (1988). The management of strategic change. New York: B. Blackwell. Quinn, R. (1996). Deep Change: Discovering the leader within. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. United Kingdom Parliament. (2012). Winston Churchill: The Greatest Briton. Retrieved March 29, 2012, from http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/churchill.pdf. Wilson. D. (1992). A strategy of change: Concepts and controversies in the management of change. New York: Rout ledge. Yukl. G. (2002). Leadership in Organizations 5th Edn. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.