“These programs on change management. How come they aren’t called change leadership programs?”

Tudor Rickards

This great question was asked at a recent leadership programme. What would your reply have been?

The course had been asked to study chapter one of Dilemmas of Leadership. The introductory session had been a discussion on its messages for leaders and leadership development. 

“Think of the basis of our beliefs as maps” I said “and in making decisions, try to test those beliefs.”

“what’s the difference between leaders and managers?” one student then asked.

“You can use the mapping metaphor” I said. “the way we think about leaders is our leadership map. The way we think of managers is our management map.”

“Arndt they the same” asked another student?”

“Depends on your maps” I replied.  “For some people it is just one map.  Other folk see them as completely different.  This puts leaders as quite different from managers. For me, the maps overlap.  Mostly, a manager is a role allocated to a person, while a leader is not commonly considered as an allocated role.”. 

I could have added that this treatment of mapping also avoids any search for an absolute definition of a term like leadership.  Each individual can assert a personal definition of a term for the purposes of discussion and based on a personal map.  The map helps us explain “What I mean by leadership when I am talking about it.”

Returning to our earlier question, and applying the mapping vocabulary, we now can see where it takes us.

“These programs on change management. How come they aren’t called change leadership programs?”

Here’s my take on it.  Change programs (or programmes) are often found within a map I sometimes call the Dominant Rational Model.  These focus on the formal and managerial.  Leadership resists efforts to be completely subsumed in the managerial map( see above).

This perspective suggests that change programmes may be heavily influenced by a managerial perspective.   This too often is reinforced by maps for project management which emphasize the rational and quantifiable.  ( ‘six  sigma’ , one student suggested , might be an example).

Leadership development programmes increasingly point to other dimensions or maps to consider.  Dilemmas of ethics and ways of creating visions abound.

In other words, change programs may be too attached to rational models of management, and therefore miss the contribution that could come from ideas found though examination of the contents of leadership maps.

One Response to “These programs on change management. How come they aren’t called change leadership programs?”

  1. Blair Hammond says:

    I love this post. It speaks particularly poignantly to the projects I’m asked to put together for my company. I work in corporate communications, and often departments (or the CEO himself) have developed strategic plans and then see one of the first steps after the plan’s creation as contacting the communications department to have us “sell” the idea to employees. The strategic plans are often made in vacuums that focus heavily on the DRM and do not include comprehensive looks at other leadership maps. Essentially they are “if/then” plans. If we make these changes, then these outcomes will improve the company. We all know it is not that simple, and yet concepts like identifying strategic champions within the organization or developing new, non-hierarchical working teams, are left until AFTER the strategy is already developed. When they finally emerge from their offices, change managers already have the plan and there is no differing from it.
    Also, if one considers the fact that by definition “managers” are focused much more on the present, short-term state of their groups and leaders are visionaries looking beyond today and at the potential of the group, “Change Management” is stunted from the very beginning. Successfully carrying out five-year strategic plans requires employees to look beyond the plan and understand where they want to be in the future, not where they are today. Concentrating on the present, as managers are tasked to do, will only result in failure.

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