9 Key Roles of Change Leaders

Published: Nov 30, 2021
Modified: Apr 09, 2024


From American Management Association

From adopting new technologies to adapting to meet increased customer expectations, change is essential to business survival. Change management—a systematic approach to keeping change under control—supports employees throughout the transition period and prevents chaos. Yet, beyond change management, driving and steering significant change within an organization demands change leadership.

What is change leadership? It’s more than being responsible for planning and managing change. A change leader influences others to re-think what they’re accustomed to doing and embrace the possibility of doing something that’s completely unfamiliar. Along with offering an inspiring vision of bold transformation, a change leader empowers others to step outside of their comfort zone and start doing something new and radically different with confidence.

Effective change leaders are crucial to business and desperately needed during times of rapid advancement and rampant uncertainty. As the experts at American Management Association (AMA) know, change leaders are not born but made. For those embarking on this path of professional development, following are nine key roles of a change leader that you might be called upon to perform:

  1. Understand the need for change. To convince others to reject the status quo and welcome change, you need to fully understand why your organization is undertaking this critical initiative. If the change doesn’t make sense to you, how can you expect others to see its value?
  2. Assess readiness for change. Are your team members ready for this change? If they’re already overwhelmed with job responsibilities and pressures, prepare for resistance.
  3. Increase readiness for change. Find a way to make the proposed change more appealing and doable for your team. Consider providing additional training or delivering a presentation on how this change will streamline a work process or solve a common problem.
  4. Manage scope and speed of change. Is the change initiative too ambitious? Is the timeline for implementation too tight? Take steps to narrow the focus and slow the pace for your team. Consider breaking a large-scale change down into smaller increments.
  5. Understand stakeholders’ responses to change. Make an effort to see the change initiative from the perspective of your team members and others affected, such as customers and suppliers. Acknowledge and consider their emotional as well as their intellectual responses.
  6. Communicate change management plans. Build commitment to change by communicating the change management plan. Remember: Change is difficult for most people. Clear and consistent communication can help make accepting change easier.
  7. Connect change initiatives to strategy. To make change meaningful and worth the effort, reinforce the connection between the change initiative and the strategic direction in which your organization is heading.
  8. Help people learn from the change. How has the change improved a work process or result? Document and share what your team has learned from the change with regular follow-up and evaluation. Call attention to how the change has benefited the entire organization.
  9. Keep initiatives on track. Change must be sustainable. Monitor your team’s progress and the outcomes to be sure the change is living up to its promise and stays on course.

Being a change leader is a demanding, very visible, high-stakes responsibility. So, be sure to consider all the roles you’re expected to successfully execute before taking on that important change initiative.

About AMA

American Management Association (AMA) is globally recognized as a leader in professional development. For nearly 100 years, it has helped millions of people bring about positive change in their performance in order to improve results. AMA’s learn-by-doing instructor-led methods, extensive content, and flexible learning formats are proven effective—and constantly evolve to meet the changing needs of individuals and organizations. To learn more, visit www.amanet.org.