Unlocking the Secrets of Real Change Leadership

by Editorial Team on April 15, 2024
  • Change-Leadership

In a world that never stops evolving, the ability to lead change is a skill that can’t be ignored.

Yet creating a transformation within an organization is often met with criticism, resentment, and failure. 

The challenge isn't change itself but our approach to it. Traditional methods, full of misconceptions and myths, have led us astray, making the process seem more daunting than it truly is.

This article offers a roadmap for leaders eager to foster a change-ready environment. In it, we reveal why change often feels like an uphill battle, why we seem to repeat our efforts with little to no sustainable change, and how to unlock adaptability - ultimately creating a true culture of change.

The Problem With Change

Change may seem straightforward. But if we dive into the science, we uncover why it seems to be such a challenge for individuals (and organizations). The complexity stems from our very nature. 

Humans are not wired for change; we are wired for predictability and safety. 

At our core, change triggers a sense of danger. It demands energy, and under stress or perceived threats, our capacity for change is easily depleted. So we as humans biologically want to avoid change where possible. 

The fundamental challenges with change are consistent. Most people approach change incorrectly, either by not taking the right actions or by misinterpreting the problem. This mismanagement leads to a cycle of repeated efforts and minimal progress. For leaders and companies, the stakes are even higher. The inability to adapt not only affects personal growth but also jeopardizes organizational health and competitiveness.

Taking this cycle further - we often see problems in the execution and perception of change as well. 

Understanding how change can be a significant source of stress is important for organizations, with 73% of employees affected by change reporting moderate to high-stress levels. Moreover, 40% of employees feel anxious about change, while only 16% feel positive about it. 

A significant hurdle is building awareness, understanding, and initial acceptance of the need for change. This is a crucial first step. Without recognizing the necessity for change, attempts at transformation are likely to fail. For change leadership to be effective, it must start with acknowledging the inherent resistance to change at a fundamental level and addressing it with empathy and strategic planning.

Unlocking the Benefit of Adaptability

A change-ready organization does not just react to changes but anticipates and embraces them. This readiness is not adjusting to issues, but building a culture that adapts quickly and efficiently in any scenario.

Having change-ready individuals brings a level of success that any leader would dream of having, however, what many leaders fail to recognize is that their own actions and behaviors lead to change-ready individual team members and teams. It’s not the result of a simple expectation or mindset of the team members. 

In change-ready teams, change processes become smoother and more effective, with less time spent overcoming resistance. Adaptable teams allow for quicker implementation of new ideas and strategies. Organizations experience less pushback from employees when roadblocks arise. Ultimately, results are quicker, easier, and more frequent for an organization.

Why should you, as a leader, care about this? 

Because change is constant. Industries evolve, new technologies emerge, and consumer preferences shift. Organizations will experience change at some point no matter the culture. So for leaders, cultivating a change-ready environment allows you to both overcome challenges as well as position your organization as an effective, innovative, and collaborative unit. You adapt quickly, recover faster, and seize opportunities that others miss. 

What Actually Drives Change?

Contrary to common belief, change is not just about processes or strategies.

Often misunderstood, change is susceptible to many misconceptions and myths. These myths misguide us, making change seem more complex or unattainable than it truly is. They mislead us and derail our success in adapting and changing.

At its core, change is about psychology. It's a way of perceiving the world open to new perspectives and possibilities. This openness is what enables us to adapt and transform.

You can develop technology and systems with the best of intentions - optimally designed for your needs. But ultimately embracing or rejecting these processes is done by humans. So to drive real change, we must focus instead on the people involved. 

We know that people don’t change beliefs - no matter what pressure is put on them. To develop real change-ready individuals we must instead facilitate a shift in the mind to openness, adaptability, and curiosity. This shift encourages individuals to embrace possibilities, explore (safely) solutions, and transform openly.

So how do we change perception without forcing a belief change? 

We do that by changing behaviors. Old science believed that thoughts changed behaviors, but it’s actually the other way around. Acting and behaving in a way (even for a moment) that allows for the possibility of a new belief helps both reveal assumptions and can provide disconfirming information about those assumptions. This leads to a potential adaptation of the new (more affirming) belief. 

So we need to create behaviors that encourage resilience and a sense of safety. Behaviors that allow collaboration (because small groups help normalize new habits).  

Ultimately the most powerful behavior we can adopt easily is the practice of asking questions. Asking questions fosters curiosity and openness as well as drives meaningful dialogue. This dialogue is the engine of transformation - defining and reshaping organizational culture and identity. It moves concepts from static, permanent, and inherited positions to dynamic and fluid capabilities. It empowers all levels of individuals to investigate and discover new positions, allowing a safe sense of new perspectives and exploration. 

Encouraging Action: How to Build a Change-Ready Organization 

Now with a clear understanding of what change is not, and what change is - where does a leader start?

​​To reiterate - a leader’s role is to create a safe space for change, not to “manage” or direct change. Instead of “I drive the vision” it needs to be “I create space for things to emerge”. Using that guiding light, leaders should tackle building the approach for change and effective change management.

The success of change initiatives starts with better planning. Unfortunately, 29% of employees reported that change was not communicated clearly in their organizations, and 28% felt they did not receive the necessary information to understand the change. 

One easy way for leaders to create that change culture is to use “bright spots”.

Bright spots are areas within the organization already exhibiting adaptability and innovation. These areas can serve as models and motivation for broader organizational change. Providing your organization's bright spots with tools, support, and coaching to nurture the impact is key for faster implementation of change as a core capability. This allows the replication of success across the organization, building change as a core capability in your individuals.

A leader’s role in this dynamic is about empowering individuals at all levels to contribute to the change process, ensuring that change becomes a sustainable part of the organization's DNA.


It's clear that the path to becoming change-ready is both a challenge and an opportunity. 

Embracing change is not about fighting the current but learning to navigate it with agility and insight. By shifting our focus from managing change to fostering an environment of openness, adaptability, and resilience, we unlock the true potential of our organizations and ourselves. 

This journey requires patience, empathy, and a willingness to question and learn. But the reward—a culture that not only anticipates change but thrives on it—is invaluable. In the end, the ability to embrace change and experience a culture of curiosity and openness will create a level of success that sets organizations on the path to excellence. 

About the Contributors:

We would like to thank the insights and expertise of Michael Leckie, a distinguished thought leader in the realms of digital transformation and change leadership. With a rich background that spans over two decades, Michael has been at the forefront of guiding organizations through significant transformations. His approach to change, emphasizing the human aspect and the creation of spaces where innovation can thrive, has been instrumental in shaping the concepts presented in this piece. We also extend our gratitude to Gavin Pommernelle, whose expertise in leadership development and talent strategy has enriched this discussion.

Topics: Effective Leadership