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Change Leadership: Spot the Difference

I’ve noticed that there's a misunderstanding of the difference between change leadership and change management. Some of the confusion may be due to job titles such as change lead assigned to change practitioners.

These are two different roles that complement another. Imagine two magnetic rocks. When they're apart, there is no traction or energy.

When you throw them together, they converge and create a noticeable buzz. It’s like this with change - the change leaders need change managers to help make it happen, and vice versa.

Dr Jen Frahm uses the brilliant analogy of rock stars and roadies in her post to highlight the difference. Our change leaders are the rock stars, who are front and centre. They are the voice and face of the organisation leading the change initiative, and often this is the change sponsor. The change managers support the change leaders or rock stars as their roadies.

Like it or not, we need to make this distinction: change practitioners are the roadies, not the rock stars. I’ve been engaged in numerous discussions with change practitioners who disagree and insist that they are ‘leading’ the change. The confusion may also come from the fact that many change managers are effective influencers.

It’s true that strong influencing skills demonstrate admirable leadership, but when delivering change, the change manager is not the change leader. The two roles require a different set of capabilities and purpose, as shown in the diagram.

This is an excerpt from my book Change Management The Essentials: A modern playbook for new and experienced practitioners to be released in early 2020.

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