Leadership Skills In Recent Change Management

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Leadership Skills In Recent Change Management


1.        Introduction


Amid the enhanced social and economic changes happening in our business and daily life, it would be important for our leaders to possess the most needed and updated skills to perform their job. This study would carry out a review on those skills that are needed with the assistance of the most recent literatures from journals, books and online resources.


2.        Part A: Review of the organizational change & leadership skills


2.1    Communication skills


Communication skills refer to the managers’ abilities both to effectively convey ideas and information to others and to effectively receive ideas and information from others. These skills usually offer a manger to transmit ideas to subordinates so that they know what has been expected by the peers and among the subordinates (Griffin 2011, p. 9). While some may doubt that with the enhanced communication technologies such as mobile phone and various online instant communication tools (e.g. MSN) communication should not be too much of a difficulty, communication issues still play critical role in leadership behaviors nowadays. Frequently, regular and transparent communication about the change builds trust, and it provides the opportunity to explain what the management wants from the staff, and allows them to openly communicate their concerns, issues, fears or perceived challenges related to the change (ezinearticles.com 2010). Also, according to K. Rama Mohana Rao (2011, p. 364), in the view of both management and the employees, leaders need to engage in interactive communication skills which include both verbal and non verbal ones to promote effective employee participations. This view is also in accordance with many witnessed business practices in the real business life. For example, we can see that in many hierarchical organizations, employees involvement is limited to the office hours as employees does sufficient communication and interaction with their direct and senior leaders because without these communications the employees would be less likely to understand what is going on among the management and what are expected to be done by them. In the feet of employees, with my personal working experiences, if a manager could provide timely communications with the employees in term of holding regular meetings or just having some personal talks in the leisure time (e.g. dining time in the tables), the employees will tend to have more understanding of the management work and share the same objectives with the management and thus tend to provide higher level of employee commitment as well as job engagement.


2.2    Technical skills


Technical skills are those skills necessary to accomplish specific tasks within the organization. Assembling a computer, developing a new formula for a frozen food additive, and writing a press release each require technical skills. As a result, these skills are generally associated with the operations employed by the organization in its production processes (universityparadise.com 2012). Take Apple, Inc. as an example, Steve Jobs is being hailed as a hero who virtually created the world of technology we live in single-handedly. He started the first personal computer company in his parent’s garage, took it public, and drove the computer industry with his relentless vision based on his firmed and advanced computer relative technologies knowledge and skills (william-heise.com 2011). And obviously, in some particular industries, relevant technological skills are necessary for the company leaders to better understand the business that they are doing and it should be noted that these technical skills alone are not sufficient as many technologies appeared in Apple’s iPhone series smart phones are already there before the release of the iPone, therefore, the significance of having technical skills among the leaders in the change management practices is not about knowing the technologies but it is about translating such the technologies into a real business.


2.3    Diagnostic skills


Diagnostic skills refer to the knowledge and experience required in identifying and understanding cause-and-effect relationships between symptoms and their underlying source(s) (Schaff, Isken & Robert 2011). Literatures have long confirmed the diagnostic skills in trying to understand the real reasons for particular changes (acute or chronic) in events like a sudden increase in absenteeism, accidents or resignations (Brine 2010). Based on the view of Jitendra Ahirrao and Prakash Ratanlal Rodiya (2012), the rapid trend of globalization and technological changes have resulted in the increased difficulties for organizations survive in the competitive world and business executives need to update their skills in particular the diagnostic skills in the change management process due to the sudden changes in both the external and internal environment of a company. For instance, when the 2008 US led financial crisis happened, the sudden change of business environment in term of customer need, finance supply and government support had contributed to fall of many companies in particular the huge ones resulting in a lot of business failures and bankruptcy, still many companies with the assistance of the good diagnostic skills of the leaders survived the crisis. Take Goldman Saches as an example. In July of 2007, when the financial industry had begun to observe the risks from the sub-prime mortgage market, based on Fitch (a famous international rating agency), all the five Unite States largest investment banks including Goldman Sachs were demonstrating “solid results despite the subprime challenges (Griffin 2010, p.92). By the early diagnosis as well as appropriate evaluation of the risks of the sub-prime mortgage risks, Goldman Saches managed to short-sell the subprime mortgage-backed securities in the mid of 2007 and thus avoided the further suffering later happen to other major investment banks. Therefore, we can see that diagnostic skills are critical for leaders to have a clear understanding regarding what happen in their business and what are the possible results if some actions are taken or not taken. And obviously, like the regular or purposed diagnoses that a doctor will be before any medicine could be issued, diagnosis skills for a leader is also critical in particular when there is limited time for a careful market research could be done and therefore individual evaluation based on diagnosis skills and personal working experiences would be of great significance to cope with such sudden changes.


2.4    Consultation skills


Consultation is a human relationship that involves extensive communication. And Consultant is a key role of the manager and senior executives. Effective consultants have a broad repertoire of consultation skills that range from basic communication skills to sophisticated problem-solving intervention skills (Dougherty 2008). The behaviors of consultation could also frequently be described as a “consulting” management style. A “consulting” management style is very different from a “command and control” management style where someone gives an order and everyone is expected to simply obey.  Highly productive, positive corporate cultures do not use the autocratic management style of command and control because it does not work with educated, self-aware people who expect more participative involvement in their work environment (itstime.com 2010). And it is believed that effective consultation between the managers and the employees and also between the management and the external consultants could be very essential to the successful management of human resources and changes. For example, part of an effective consultation policy is to have an open door policy so that employees could feel comfortable approaching managers and managers could get access to the employees ideas. The consultation skills and practices according to Patricia Buhle (2012) are important to ensure that good ideas could be proactively reached and referred to by the management.

2.5    Force accountability and accountability assignment skills


According to Susan E. Jackson, Randall S. Schuler and Steve Werner (2012) when objectives of change are well set, it is critical to state not only what to be achieved and who is responsible for fostering the needed changes. Such accountability assignment refers to the identification of the one who is responsible for progress of the implementation of the change and continual adherence to the well implemented changes. According to the authors, accountability translates into new approaches to awarding incentive pay and bonus and such clear accountability assignment contributes to the quality and active implementation of the desired changes which further contribute to the success in achieving the strategic business goals. Because of the various sources of individual resistances to changes such as fear of the unknown (because any disruption of familiar patterns may create fear as it can cause delays and foster the belief that nothing is getting accomplished) (Griffin & Moorhead 2010, p. 547), therefore it would be important for leaders to assign clear duty for the particular individuals and clearly request them to fulfill the changes desired.


2.6    Balancing personal life and work

One skill that is rarely mentioned in the various literature of the leader skills in change management is the skill of balancing personal life and work. The importance of achieving the balance between personal life and work for the leaders are eminent that we could source huge number of example in our real business world and daily life. For instance, one of my friend’ father is a successful business man in the retail industry by running a large chain of supermarket across the south China, during the ambitious expansion of the business, he had been working with every second he could spend at work, and what’s more when some symptoms of illness were witnessed he refused to check with the doctor until he died in a sudden with a kind of heart disease. Similar case are so many that any business leader should pay attention to such balance between work and work or work and health to ensure that their contribution to the creation of value is not at the cost of quality personal life which leads to better results for both the company and the individuals.


3.        Part B: Importance of leadership skills


Skills identified Radical or revolutionary Incremental or evolutionary Punctuated equilibrium Continuous transformational
A[1] B C A B C A B C A B C
Communication skills 6 5 3 4 6 2 3 5 2  4 2  3
Diagnostic skills 7 5 5 3 5 2 4 2 4 6 5 3
Diagnostic skills 4 3 2 5 7 3 3 3 1 3 5 4
Accountability assignment skills 8 5 6 3 4 4 5 6 5 4 3 3
Balancing personal life and work 7 8 6 5 6 5 4 5 4 6 3 2
Technical skills 3 6 2 4 3 1 3 4 3  3 5  2

Table 1 Importance of leadership skills


4.        Conclusion


With the analyses above, we can conclude that the rapid changing business world has required our leaders to possess more skills such as communications, duty assignment and diagnostic skills, also it extends over the business field and takes into consideration of the personal life of the leaders by requesting them to achieve a better balance between personal life and work life; with the table showing the importance of leadership skills different skills should receive different focus based on the changes involved and also the stage of the changes.



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[1] A = pre-change, B = change implementation and C= post implementation