Why Leading Transformation Successfully Requires a Shift of Leadership Mindset

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Dean Anderson
Linda Ackerman Anderson

Leadership mindset and style set the overall tone for organizational culture and performance, including how change efforts are run. Command and control, the most common leadership style, does not work for transformational change, yet most leaders and organizations rely exclusively on it. In this article, I will introduce a new leadership style—co-creating—and demonstrate why it is paramount for transformational success.

A co-creative change leadership style often catalyzes these conditions for successful transformation:

  • Organizational alignment with local control of local decisions
  • Massive information dissemination in all directions so the entire organization can participate intelligently
  • Easy integration of change plans across hierarchical and functional boundaries
  • Common and aligned change goals throughout the organization
  • Constant learning and course correcting and change plans
  • Credible leaders people trust as they march into the unknown

There are three prevalent types of change occurring in organizations today. Each type calls for very different change strategies, change methodologies, and change leadership mindsets. (For a complete description of the different types, see Beyond Change Management: How to Achieve Breakthrough Results through Conscious Change Leadership, 2nd Edition, Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson, ISBN: 978-0-470-64808-7, Pfeiffer, 2010.)

In developmental and transitional change efforts, the desired state and the process for achieving it can be known and defined from the start, and the “people impacts” from the changes are minimal. Consequently, these types of change can be “managed” with a great deal of control.

In transformation, however, the desired state is NOT known at the beginning. The destination and the process for getting there emerge as the leaders make best guesses, implement them, learn, course correct, make new best guesses, implement those, etc.

Adding further to the unpredictability of transformation are the huge human impacts: often, people’s fundamental ways of thinking, behaving, and working must change along with the organization’s culture. For these reasons, transformational change cannot be managed or controlled. The process can be facilitated, but only if the change leaders set aside their command and control ways and become more “cocreative.”

Co-Creating: The Required Shift of Style

Co-creating refers to working with people and circumstances, whereas command and control refers to gaining power over and control of people and circumstances. We define co-creating as “people working together, across boundaries, to produce Win-win-win results.”

By “Win-win-win” results, we mean results that serve both the individual people or business units (I win/you win), as well as serve the larger systems involved (the partnership, team, organization, and larger community). Mutually pursuing the larger system’s “win” is the key that shifts peoples’ worldviews from each individual trying to gain “power over and control of” others or circumstances to serve their own needs, to each individual working with the circumstances at hand and each other in support of the common outcome.

Don’t get me wrong; operating co-creatively to lead transformation requires much more human skill than simply having shared vision. Leading co-creatively requires great self-awareness and one’s own personal transformation to being free of the ego’s habits of commanding and controlling. It compels leaders to let go of the mechanistic, military model of organizations (hierarchy, separation of departments), and instead to see organizations as inter-connected, evolving human systems.

When leaders operate co-creatively during change, they:

  • Put the priority of the larger organization first, not their own self-interests or political agendas
  • Smoothly integrate change initiatives across departments, regions, or business units
  • Share information about the case for change, the change strategy, and the future state design (withholding information only limits people’s contribution)
  • Allow for local control of decisions by sharing power and authority
  • Remove unnecessary hierarchy or barriers to performance
  • Maximize participation and involvement so the whole system mobilizes the change collectively
  • Operate with clear roles and accountabilities because they see that usurping each other’s power only weakens the organization’s overall capacity to change

These are many of the human requirements of successful organization transformation. You cannot force people to march into the unknown with blind faith, or force them to change their mindsets, behavior, or ways of working. You can, however, co-create with them in such a way that they desire to contribute to the transformation’s success in all ways possible because it serves something they want to produce! Change leaders will never get such commitment from command and control.

There is a tremendous dilemma embedded in this discussion: how can change leaders transform their organizations if they have not yet transformed their own mindsets and style? Clearly, they cannot. However, this is not a chicken and egg issue; mindset change does not need to precede the organization’s transformation. They can occur together.

Organization development consultants should attempt to ensure that every transformational change strategy leadership mindset. With their knowledge of personal change, organization development consultants can be key players in supporting this most vital change leadership breakthrough.

When change leaders employ command includes plans and control as their dominant change for shifting leadership style, they often:

  • Cause resistance
  • Adhere to preconceived change plans instead of course correcting as needed
  • Don’t allow the necessary local control of change decisions
  • Alienate employees by not sharing information
  • Neglect the human, emotional transition phases of transformation
  • Lose credibility by not modeling the behavior and culture change they are advocating
  • Overlook communicating critical change information
  • Fail to intrinsically motivate and build a critical mass of support

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With this extensively upgraded second edition, Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson solidify their status as the leading authorities on change leadership and organizational transformation. This is without question the most comprehensive approach for leaders who are serious about making change a strategic discipline. Beyond Change Management is an intelligent book by two of the most knowledgeable and accomplished masters of their craft, and it’s one that every conscious change leader should adopt as their guide to creating more meaningful organizations.

Jim Kouzes
Coauthor of the bestselling The Leadership Challenge and The Truth About Leadership

Read this great book by Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson and learn how to use their multi-dimensional approach to lead transformation masterfully and consciously!

Marshall Goldsmith
World-renowned executive coach
Author of the New York Times best-sellers, MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

An important move toward a more integral business consulting approach, very much recommended for those interested in the topic and ways to actually apply it. 

Ken Wilber
Author, The Integral Vision, A Brief History of Everything, and over a dozen other best-sellers

Dean and Linda are core to the field of conscious change leadership, and continue to stretch and push its boundaries in this rich and deep compendium. This is a must read from two consummate thought leaders who have devoted their careers to developing highly successful change leaders. Read it and immediately improve your change leadership or consulting success.

Bev Kaye
CEO, Career Systems International
Author of Love 'em or Lose 'em: Getting Good People to Stay

This book is about mastery of leading the transformational change process written by masters of the craft.  For corporate leaders and consultants who consider themselves committed students of the process of organizational change.

Daryl Conner
Chairman, Conner Partners
Author of Managing at the Speed of Change and Leading at the Edge of Chaos

Beyond Change Management is a timely how-to guide for leading change in the 21st century. It provides both a conceptual roadmap, and practical tools and techniques for successfully transforming organizations.

Noel Tichy
Professor, University of Michigan
Co-author with Warren Bennis of JUDGMENT: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls

Once again, Dean and Linda have nailed it! Beyond Change Management is an extraordinary book examining the shifts in change management that have occurred over the years. This book offers real, practical solutions for change practitioners to become extraordinary conscious change leaders.

Darlene Meister
Director, Unified Change Management
United States House of Representatives

Powerful business solutions to the current chaos facing many organizations today. Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson get to the heart of change, the human touch, by using timeless techniques and tools.
Ken Blanchard
Co-Author of The One Minute Manager and Leading at a Higher Level

Having applied this methodology for two years to manage change inside Microsoft, it has been instrumental in our ability to land change effectively, engage employees and deliver results quickly. The Change Leader’s Roadmap allows us to lead change with precision and minimal outside consulting, while at the same time growing change leadership capability internally. This is the most complete change methodology we have found anywhere.

Pete Fox
General Manager, Corporate Accounts
Microsoft US

This newest edition of The Change of Leader’s Roadmap is an invaluable, comprehensive and practical guide for envisioning an organization’s desired future, designing the structures and practices necessary to make it happen, and implementing them effectively. The book describes the change process in nine distinct phases and outlines the activities and tasks that need to occur in each phase. It provides change leaders with an essential map for successfully traversing the complex and uncertain terrain of transformational change.   

Thomas G. Cummings
Professor and Chair, Department of Management & Organization
Marshall School of Business
University of Southern California

This is the next best thing to having Dean, Linda and the Being First team riding alongside your complex change initiative. The Change Leader’s Roadmap breeds confidence in senior executive “Champions” to guide not just a successful transformational change, but most importantly, to develop the mission critical organizational CULTURE that will ensure unparalleled return on investment. Nothing I have seen in my 32 years of leading change comes close.

Jeff Mulligan
Former CEO, Common Wealth Credit Union
Mayor, City of Lloydminster

After implementing more than 2000 business strategy and operational excellence initiatives, we set out to find the best change methodology and toolbox in the world. The methodology this book describes is it! Study it thoroughly, because the thinking, process approach and pragmatic tools really work!

Thomas Fischer
Director COO
Valcon Management Consultants A/S

A practical, step-by-step guide for change leaders, managers and consultants. The book provides conceptually grounded, real world, time tested tools and guidance that will prove invaluable to those faced with navigating the challenges of leading organizational change in today's turbulent times.

Robert J. Marshak, Ph.D.
Senior Scholar in Residence
MSOD Program, American University
Organizational Change Consultant