Change within organisations can take on a wide variety of forms and includes different types of organisational action. The pursuit of organisational change is usually related in one way or another to the goal of improving performance and productivity. These ends can be attained through various forms of organisational change. Some of these variations include growth, modernization or improvement and development of skill; through reduction in workforce or reorganisation; through financial reorganisation or changes; or through a combination of these. The way in which the transformation of an organisation is carried out is reliant almost entirely on the leadership style and the culture that are present in the organisation. This is one of the most important reasons that leadership is crucial to the successful implementation of organisational change.
Leadership is a key factor in a succession of development in which establishing vision, implementing change and guiding staff members are linked in a continuous process. Sustaining a culture of change requires the type of constant effort and commitment that only leaders can properly direct. Especially in times of uncertainty and change, employees look to the leader figures in the organisation. Leaders are key to casting the vision for change, directing it and reinforcing it at all levels. Without the vision and guidance of leadership, productive change is not possible.
Another reason leadership is so important to the process of transformation is related to the external environment. Leaders serve as a go-between between the internal and external environment. Just as leaders do not exist in isolation, neither do their organisations. Leaders must be in tune with the external environment in which their organisation functions as well as the organisation’s own internal environment. During times of change, leaders mediate between the two in order to maintain balance by making sure neither clashes with its counterpart. The successful transformation of any organisation is reliant on the leadership’s proper handling of these environments and ability to adapt the direction to changing circumstances.
The distinction must be made between leaders of change and change agents. While the former typically hold senior and top management positions, the latter can be found at all levels within the organisation. Successful implementation of change depends on the premise that strong leaders will cultivate and support change agents through training and development, and equally important – listening. The focus on developing and strengthening change agents is a crucial part of the change process which only leadership can complete.
During the difficult process of change, good leaders establish a climate of trust between themselves and their staff, thereby fostering faith that things will get better. Doing this makes dealing with radical change easier on everyone. On the other hand, poor leadership creates a lack of hope, which, if not properly addressed prior to implementing change, can ultimately lead to the failure of said change.
Leadership throughout the entire life cycle of the organisational process is the key to successfully achieving a healthy transformation.