9 Habits of a Change Leader

The restructuring was supposed to be the panacea to the organization’s problem.  

Instead, it has become the albatross birthing unwanted involuntary resignations. This is multiplying organizational performance and reputational risks.

Managers often implement significant change initiatives. They routinely oversee project tasks, objectives, and timelines, managing the necessary but tedious details.

There is little time for change leadership – intentionally navigating people through the change process to acceptance and active engagement.

The absence of change leadership – through no fault of the manager – could result in a derailed organizational change initiative. In addition, without change leadership, time, effort, money, and employee goodwill could be lost.

Why might a change initiative crash? The answer lies in this concept:

“People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.”

— Peter Senge

People do not always automatically embrace something new. Fear and discomfort of what to expect and the resulting personal impact could fuel resistance.

Consequently, some change initiatives die on the vine or implode.

Change Leadership 

When managers engage in change leadership, they take deliberate actions to lead people through the process to adopt the change fully.

As Prosci indicates in its methodology, ADKAR, organizations can only change when individuals change. Enabling individuals to embrace the shift requires strategic efforts.  

9 Habits of a Change Leader

If you desire to increase the likelihood of a successful change initiative, consider the following nine habits – appropriate for leaders at any level in the organizational hierarchy:

Habit 1: Get Clear on Your Disposition to the Change.

Determine your perception of the change. Know why the change is needed and what motivates your support. While you can lead a change you don’t fully support, resolving personal reservations will enable you to effectively guide others through the change process.

Habit 2: Assess the Organization’s Culture. 

Organizational culture is the widely held beliefs that drive how things get done. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) states that most cultures have shared values, such as an emphasis on:

  • Achievement and results;
  • Fairness, tolerance, and respect for the individual; and
  • Stability and security. 

View the change initiative with the company’s culture as a backdrop to get a sense of the organization’s change readiness. 

Habit 3: Identify and Engage Stakeholders.

Identify the stakeholders who have an interest or concern in the change’s success (or failure), such as leaders inside and outside the business group, team members, suppliers, contractors, and more.

Develop a stakeholder engagement plan, including strategies to affirm or maintain champions, garnering needed support for now and later.

Habit 4: Fashion a Network.

Ensure to create a diverse network of colleagues at all hierarchical levels, including executives, other managers, and the non-management workforce. Also, consider diversity from different dimensions, such as cultures, capabilities, thoughts, multi-generations, geographies, and other aspects.

Be clear on goals and expectations and utilize the network's strengths.

Habit 5: Communicate and Connect.

Communicate early, often, and entirely – as much as possible. Determine your communication approach.

  • Include multiple mediums to increase the likelihood of others correctly receiving the intended message.
  • Approaches may include company and business group meetings, emails, newsletters, instant messages, face-to-face, et. al.

Habit 6: Raise the Needle on Engagement.

Create an environment that signals inclusion and respect for individuals. Help those that the change impacts understand how their:

  • Positions align with the shift.
  • Engagement contributes to success – personally, the business group, and the organization.

Habit 7: Sweat the Small Stuff.

Consider what is important to your stakeholders, such as knowing their general behaviors and motivators. Then, determine how to establish an environment that generates interest and brings out their best.

Habit 8: Nurture Growth and Development.

Integrate these actions:

  • First, define the skills and resources needed to make the change successful.
  • Second, establish a talent development framework that leans into strengths and mitigates weaknesses.
  • Third, consider the cost to the individual and the organization of misaligned team members.
Sometimes knowledge, skills, and abilities do not align with the available opportunities.

Habit 9: Press Pause.

Commemorate and celebrate success.

Acknowledge and affirm contributions meaningfully to those who contributed to the change’s success. Doing so could close the door to (or slow the flow of) unwanted employee turnover.

In Closing

Take an organizational pulse check to assess how well change leadership is happening within the organization.

Please get in touch with me for a complimentary consultation.


Prosci, The Prosci ADKAR Model. Retrieved from https://www.prosci.com/methodology/adkar.

Society for Human Resource Management. (n.d.). Understanding and developing organizational culture. Society for Human Resource Management. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/understandinganddevelopingorganizationalculture.aspx.

Lillian Davenport, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, CTACC, Principal, End View Solutions, LLC

Lillian Davenport

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Lillian Davenport is a coach, consultant, and leadership strategist. Her signature program, M3 LeadershipSM, prepares you to enhance and develop your self-awareness, embrace your inner strength, and lead with confidence, courage, and impact.

Lillian’s career as a human resources leader includes roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Woodforest National Bank, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where she leveraged employee relations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise in leadership development.