Leading change is different from change management. Change management is a well-thought-out set of approaches and tools that support change, often at a project level. It happens in parallel to the project to make sure the business solution is implemented and that people adopt the new behaviors associated with it. It focuses on understanding the difference between the current state and future state, creating communication and training plans, identifying early adopters and resisters and paving the way for the business outcome to be reached. The change management toolkit is a very important one that should be part of projects that introduce change — but it’s not enough.
Leading change is something very different.
Fundamentally, it’s about creating and communicating a vision for change not directly tied to a project or initiative. It’s about making change part of your culture’s DNA. It is transformational, envisioning and driving the business solution, not simply implementing it. Change leadership creates a mindset across the organization. It focuses on what could or should be different, rather than asking people to simply adopt an already determined solution. It removes the shackles of how we do things and asks people to truly engage in the change: to become part of creating a solution.
To lead change, don’t just behave differently — think differently. The great change leaders I’ve known have a different mindset than change managers. They aren’t trying to contain change. They’re trying to make it contagious, embedding change thinking into everything from the most fundamental daily interaction to the most complex strategy. To make change contagious, you need to start with a compelling vision.