Industry Update
Opinion Article24 July 2017

The Magic of Metamorphosis: Organizational Change and Inspirational Leadership

By Nicolas Frangos, Forward Thinking Hospitality Executive

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They say that our security can only be found in our ability to adapt and he who rejects change designs his nemesis. Corporate culture has undergone radical change, and the need to align business models with these changes has proved a challenge if the right channels of implementation are not used. In the contemporary business environment, challenges have had a new twist due to technological advancements, globalization as well as competition. In such a world, it is not the biggest and most endowed who can thrive but those who will strongly embrace transformation. It is, however, important to remember that people are the stakeholders of change and without the right perceptions, organizational change cannot be effective.

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Leaders have emerged as vital tools of organizational change implementation. The organizational change stems from leadership which involves the ability of an individual to influence others to follow them. Leaders are diverse, and each of them follows their style and strategy to implement change in an organization. Styles and strategies may vary especially due to the contemporary challenges of the ever-evolving business world. Leaders using the right strategies have managed to fight of organizational resistance to change by convincing people that change is healthy and will guide them to the right direction which will ensure sustainability in the modern business setting. In a bid to stay relevant in the challenging world, leaders have been perceived as important drivers of transformation success. Let's make an analysis of the role of leadership in organizational change as well as the various leadership styles and strategies that leaders can adopt to overcome the problem of resistance to change.

Organizational Change

Organizational change can be defined as the review and modification of management processes and business structures. An organization adds or removes a significant practice in the business model which then requires being further integrated into the business processes. It is a fundamental strategy for survival and competitive advantage due to the rapid changes facing the business world. Just like human beings evolve in various stages, organizations also face some changes as they develop to become mature brands.

Kurt Lewin's change model presents organizational change as a freeze-movement-refreeze situation whereby change is introduced, integrated and then allowed to solidify within the normal routine. Stage theory of organizational change postulates that a company undergoes four progressive stages before it fully transitions from one state to the other. The four phases include identifying the need which triggers a need for change, decision making to help identify a solution to the need, change the implementation of change and evaluation of change implementation. The four stages of organizational change need to follow systematically to ensure the correct application of organization change as a strategy to competitive advantage as well as sustainability. However various market orientations have different requirements and expectations which call for different strategies by which organizations must adapt to thrive in strong harmony with customers and other stakeholders.

Organizational change is done to enhance business processes as well as performance but also involves changing people's behaviors to align with the new practices. The Carnegie school theory was developed in mid-1950 and aimed to exemplify the drivers of stability and change in an organization. The theory states that organizations engage in change when they face failure in their current business procedures. If the current nature of the business model, technical feasibility, human resource policies and organization culture do not lead the company towards their goals, then it leads to a failure induced need for change. The Carnegie school theory states that the source for stability in the organization are the routine procedures and programs in the business and when the standard practices do not help develop stability in the business, then the need for change arises. The major reason for the change is to tighten up organizational procedure to ensure more efficiency for the optimization of resources.

People don't like change and attempts to implement change may be futile if not done with the proper change management techniques. Change management is a vital aspect of successful organizational change and refers to the methodology used to transition employees and organizational procedures to the new methods intended to bring about optimization of organization resources and profitability as well as a significant reduction of costs. In, essence, change management how management plans to reshape how the enterprise works to fit more realistic and achievable goals depending on the nature of the business and the environment. Concerning change management, it is important to understand what change entails to have a clear picture of what to consider while designing a change plan.

There are various elements of organizational change depending on the motive and nature of the business environment. Perpetual change is one of the elements of change in an organization since in essence the modern business world is tough and requires constant upgrade and re-engineering of business processes. Perpetual change involves constant transitioning of the operational course to suit the needs of the dynamic business world. The second element of organizational change is the need to change lenses. Business needs to apply different lenses in their change management all which include political, marketing, economic as well as cultural lenses to be able to develop viable procedures for change development and management. The third element to be considered during the process of organizational change is employee psychology. With so much transition and downshift, employees may become frustrated and confused by the changes which may act by undermining their ability to work since they feel threatened by the alterations. The final element of organizational change is the nature of the approach used. The change management approach applied should be consistent with company's mission and vision as well as obeys legal requirements. Leaders and decision makers need to consider all these elements to ensure the successful transition of business processes.

Role of Leadership in Organizational Change

Successful change implementation highly depends on the contribution of individuals holding direct authority and power. To achieve successful transformation, there must be a change agent with a robust understanding of the nature of business processes and organizational context. Organizational change is an integrative process that requires the involvement of all elements in an organization which include the human resource element, operating systems and technologies adopted. Leaders hold a central character in change management and development in organizations by neutralizing the frustrations and confusion created by the modifications, ensuring that the transformation is less painful or tense. The process of transitioning human attitudes and behaviors is very sensitive, and leaders act as a buffer by ensuring a balance between human characteristics and successful transitioning. Special leadership attributes places leaders in a strategic position, valuable enough to play the role of a change agent.

Companies continue to face tough times which create a lot of difficulties and threaten their survival. The capabilities of corporate leaders can make a huge difference in driving the business towards the right type of change. The primary focus of leaders and managers here is to effect continuous efforts that allow for successful change. Organizational change by itself requires the development of new organizational arrangements which are then required to be implemented.

Leaders are in a good position to influence masses to accept change as well as explain procedures for how this can go about. Leaders sponsor change in the organization by advocating for the need to have new processes and techniques in the organization. The ability to influence change while ensuring to meet the needs of stakeholders, therefore, requires very crucial skills and abilities. Leaders' help employees gain a clear perspective of the changes and exemplify the importance of adopting such change thereof. They will often communicate the nature of modification and interpret any information gaps that may hinder complete change implementation among the employees. Leaders play the role of being role models in change management by exhibiting behaviors and attitudes that are consistent with the intended change. Employees will normally look out to leaders and will be more empowered to embrace change if the leaders accept it. Most important of all, leaders hold direct authority in an organization which means that they can manipulate resources and decisions so that employees can be fully engaged in the change process. True leaders acknowledge the value of training and mentorship and ensure to set aside resources for such factors.

Leadership styles and skills

The ability to embrace change highly depends on the way the change is managed. It is very important for a leader to be charismatic, emotionally intelligent and transformational for him to have the desired impact during the organizational transition. Various situations and the need for change motives require different leadership traits and styles for there to be the successful implementation of change. Transformational, charismatic leadership styles and emotional intelligence allow a leader to remain focused and influential in the change process.

The leadership skills and style create an impact on the employees with which change implementation is achieved. If the leader has the right set of skills, then they can trigger a desirable attitude among the employees who drives the success of the strategy. Employee involvement is one of the most important skills required by a leader in ensuring effective influence. Employees need to be engaged and consulted during change development and implementation since the change mostly affects them. Involving employees not only motivates employees to embrace change but also helps them understand the nature and reason for the change.

A leader needs to have strong communication skills for them to have the right influence on the employees. A leader with the right communication skills will be able to interpret complex procedures simply and will also be able to raise the right attitude in the employees whenever there is a training or mentorship program.

Leaders with good communication skills will often promote healthy team work and work relationships which in turn foster a good working environment whereby change is easy to inject. Good leaders need to have the right personal values so that they can be good role models to the employees. This requires leaders to be flexible and easily adjustable to change so that he can lead the way for others to follow. To be able to generate positive outcomes from organizational change development, leaders are required to have the emotional intelligence to ensure that as they teach other to embrace change, they maintain patience and composure. Leaders who give in to emotions may exhibit poor communication and employees may pretend to embrace change just to make such a leader satisfied.

Successful change implementation highly depends on the personal decision and motivation to transform, and when a leader exhibits poor emotional management ability, they discourage employees from wholeheartedly accepting the change and may not feel free to inquire when faced with difficulty. It is possible to achieve successful organizational change so long as there are successful leadership support and procedural effectiveness all which depend on the leadership skills of the leader.

Leadership theories

With the perpetual change, leaders need to have the ability to analyze situations and make rapid responses. Having the right skills orientation and the strength to cope with different situations makes a leader more effective in their role. It can be hard to identify true leaders who can be change agents in an organization. Various theories have been postulated to explain the nature of leaders and how to identify good leaders. The great man theory of leadership states that leadership is inborn and cannot be developed. This theory states that a true leader is born with the rightful leadership skills and is automatically able to use them as they grow up, up to the time they have corporate responsibilities. Based on this theory, leaders can be identified from their leadership history and how well they can be natural leaders. This theory was opposed by Herbert Spencer since he stated that the ability to use any inborn abilities highly depends on the social conditions a person is exposed to while growing up.

The behavioral theory, on the other hand, identifies true leaders as those who exhibit favorable behaviors characterized by the right skills, attitudes as well as personal beliefs. The theory has been opposed since it assumes the physical, mental and social aspects of the leader. The trait theory states that a leader with the right abilities can be identified by the traits they exhibit in the day to day roles. Traits such as intelligence as well as mental health depict the ability of a person to lead. The theory gives a logical explanation but fails to outline how these traits apply to the various leadership styles and situations.

Change is inevitable and as the business world evolves it has become mandatory for organizations to change their operational causes to survive the competition and customer expectations. In this light, organizational change has emerged as an important topic of study. The need for successful organizational change has placed a lens on the role played by leadership in ensuring such change thereof. Leaders are important in the process of organization transition since they ensure good mentorship, training as well as motivation to employees with the aim of influencing them to embrace change. Embracing change requires employees to have the right attitudes and perceptions while most importantly hold a deep understanding of the change in procedures and practices. Leaders uphold positive outcomes in organizational change so long as they have the right set of skills. Charismatic and transformational leadership styles are the strongest drivers of change in an organization. Such style combined with the right set of skills place leaders at a very crucial position in organizational change and development.

Nicolas Frangos

Nicolas Frangos is a multi-skilled Hospitality Executive with distinctive knowledge of Luxury Hotel Operations, Development and Asset Management, directing international hotel groups, mixed-use business, multi-unit properties and outstanding luxurious hotels, introducing strategies to drive growth within intensively competitive markets, delivering significant return on equity and invested capitals (ROIC).

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