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How Do You Lead Change?

A critical expression of leadership is the ability to produce change within an organization. Caretaker managers can keep things going on a steady path, but leaders are required if the organization is to pursue a new path or rise to a significantly higher level of performance.  A primary competency of leadership is the ability to influence and manage change.

6 Change Management Styles

Drawing on a sample of 3,870 leaders, consulting firm Hay McBer found that six distinct leadership styles exist, each building from different components of emotional intelligence. The different styles correlate positively and negatively to the overall organizational climate and performance of an organization.  Here is a quick look at the different styles.

The Commanding Style

This style is characterized by the leader telling followers what to do.  It is useful in situations which require immediate compliance (like an emergency), but it doesn’t allow for followers to think for themselves or to be creative.

The Visionary Style

This style is concerned with vision building.  The leader demonstrates authority by establishing respect and credibility and being able to bring people along due to the ability to engage with others and be clear about the direction.

The Affiliative Style

This style is used mainly when the focus is people rather than task.  It is often used when there is conflict or discord.  Its primary purpose is to get people aligned and cohesive.

The Democratic Style

This style is best used when you want or need people to be engaged in the decision-making process.  It’s not focused on the people as such, but on what they can contribute.

The Pace Setting Style

This style is often seen in organizations that have big change agendas and energetic, committed people (often at the top). As the name implies, it’s leadership from the front with a clear idea of where the change is going.  It gets change moving but can result in burn-out of the people leading the change or leaving the rest of the organization behind.

The Coaching Style

This style of leadership is used appropriately when bringing on people and developing the organization capability by developing people.

Flexibility is Key

Leaders who can master four or more – especially the visionary, affiliative, democratic and coaching styles – will have the most positive impact on climate and performance.  Each style, if deployed appropriately, has short term uses and benefits, but over time the commanding and pace setting styles produced a negative impact on climate and performance.

Effective leaders are flexible in their use of the styles and sensitive to the impact each style has on others in the organization. Your task as a leader is to use the best change management style appropriate for the given situation and setting.

How about you?

So, how do you lead change?  Hopefully after reading this your answer will be, “It depends.”  In our next installment called “How to Manage Change and Transition” we’ll give you a framework in which to apply the appropriate leadership style.

American Water College provides online and onsite technical and management training for water and wastewater professionals. Click on the link for more information about our Effective Utility Management training program.  Or check out our Classroom Training Schedule for dates and locations of our upcoming events.  We also have a complete training library available to your organization.  Click here  or call us at (661) 874-1655 to find out how you can gain access to this industry specific training for your utility.