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Hybrid working: change management
Hybrid working: change management

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6 Leading change

Creating an organisation where creativity and innovation thrive, and where the necessity of change is fully embraced in order to deliver the benefits of that innovation effort to its stakeholders, is not easy.

Very few organisations are able to maintain the focus required to keep up with stakeholder demands whilst simultaneously reacting to often conflicting internal and external drivers for change. Linda Hill and her colleagues suggest that the most innovative companies are led by people who ‘understand that their most important role is to create a context in which others can collectively do the work of innovation’ (Hill et al., 2014).

It is fair to say that change ‘leadership’ is not a reserved title for the senior management of an organisation (although it may be incumbent on them to allocate sufficient resources and help create the environment to enable innovation and change to happen). The title can be applied to people at every level of an organisation, and indeed, Buchanan and Boddy (Buchanan, 1992) were the first to describe a ‘change agent’ as any member of an organisation seeking to sponsor, initiate, implement or deliver change.

Change agents require the right mix of skill, knowledge, experience, behaviours and attitudes, and these core competencies can be grouped and used as a basis for assessing the capabilities of a change agent. At the start of the course we looked at the John Fisher’s (2012) Personal Transition Curve, and you considered how you felt about change. Developing your emotional intelligence and competencies for leading change is critical to enable you to build better relationship with those involved and/or impacted by change initiatives.

One of the most considered pieces of research around change agent competencies comes from Daniel Goleman (1996), who defined ‘emotional competencies’ for change leaders. His model of emotional intelligence focuses on the aspects included in the following table:

Table 5 Emotional competencies for change leaders
Self-Awareness Self-Management Social Awareness Relationship Management
Emotional self-awareness

Emotional balance


Achieve positivity


Organisational awareness



Conflict management



Another approach developed by Malcolm Higgs and Deborah Rowland in 2000. Their findings are listed and compared in Table 6 below.

Table 6 Change agent competencies proposed by Higgs and Rowland (2000)
Competency cluster Competency indicator

Change initiation (CIN):

Ability to create the case for change and secure credible sponsorship

Surfaces issues
Demonstrates impact of issues on performance
Influences key sponsors
Secures sponsor commitment

Change impact (CIM):

Ability to scope the breadth, depth, sustainability and returns of a change strategy

Scope of thinking
Depth of impact (systematic thinking)
Identifies ‘returns on change’

Change facilitation (CF):

Ability to help others, through effective facilitation, to gain insight into the human dynamics of change and to develop the confidence to achieve the change goals

Manages human dynamics
Encourages and supports self-management
Conflict management
Process management

Change leadership (CL):

Ability to influence and enthuse others, through personal advocacy, vision and drive, and to access resources to build a solid platform for change

Relationship building
Personal impact
Sells ideas

Change learning (CLE):

Ability to scan, reflect and identify learning and ensure insights are used to develop individual, group and organisational capabilities

Listening and inquiry
Knowledge management

Change execution (CEX):

Ability to formulate and guide the implementation of a credible change plan with appropriate goals, resources, metrics and review mechanisms

Organisation savvy
Manages resistance
Journey design
Journey management

Change presence (CP):

Demonstrates high personal commitment to achievement of change goals through integrity and courage while maintaining objectivity and individual resilience (‘a non-anxious presence in a sea of anxiety’)


Change technology (CT):

Knowledge, generation and skilful application of change theories, tools and processes

Source: Adapted from Higgs and Rowland (2000), pp. 124–125

Activity 8 Your change agent competencies

Timing: 10 minutes

Using each of the competency clusters identified by Goleman (1996) and Higgs and Rowland (2000), think about your own change agent competencies. How would you rate your ability in each of these areas, and which areas could you develop to become a more effective change agent?

Use the text box below to capture your reflections, if you wish.

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Goleman (1996) also identified six leadership styles to choose from to deploy in any situation and at any point in the change process. These are:

  1. coercive
  2. authoritative
  3. affiliative
  4. democratic
  5. pacesetting
  6. coaching.

Goleman suggested that a leader may have to use combinations of these depending on the type of change, the phase of the implementation and the culture of the organisation or when dealing with resistance to change.