The New Leadership Paradigm Shift

By David McCuistion

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

The new leadership paradigm shift: “Change – Just Do It!” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was that easy?

My Navy career change was easy because the change normally came in the form of an “order or command” that was quite natural and robotically followed.

There was no discussion or reasoning behind the change. It came from the top, and us in the middle and below followed the order, regardless of the impact on the person(s) accomplishing the change.

New Leadership Paradigm Shift

However, people paradigms have changed, even in the military, from the old style of control directed through a rigid hierarchy, with employees treated like uneducated children to reach short-term goals, to a new paradigm with the following characteristics:

Leadership Skills Values

Under this new paradigm, change is championed by the top leadership throughout the organization. Modern-day leadership, especially practitioners of Servant Leadership, understand that employees at all levels desire to be involved in decision-making.

Why Change Initiatives Fail

Dr. Janet Jackson (2006) says organizational change initiatives fail because of four important factors:

1. The primary focus is on the technology of change.

2. Organizations overlook the importance of people in the change, and they do not fully address their concerns.

3. Systems perspective is ignored, thinking the change only impacts a portion of the organization.

4. Leadership and management fail to acknowledge the difference between change, transition, and transformation.

When people and systems are ignored in the change process, there is employee push-back to the change, which further exasperates the change process.

Three Types of Change

Dr. Jackson identifies three types of change: Developmental Change, Transitional Change, and Transformational Change.

Each requires specific strategies for implementation in order for the change process to be successful and effective.

Developmental Change pertains to a particular situation within the organization, including basic policy changes, new bosses, moving to a new location, or a procedural change for a current policy.

Developmental change is described as the exchange of one thing for another or the improvement of a certain skill or method because it is not meeting a prescribed standard.

It is considered the simplest of the three changes, i.e., a first-order change. But it requires specific strategies that include:

  • Training – both technical and personal, regardless of the level of supervision and/or management;
  • Team Building and Problem Solving;
  • Improving Communication;
  • Conflict Resolution;
  • Survey feedback;
  • Job Enrichment.

The aim of these strategies is to reduce personal stress regarding the impact of the change on daily work requirements and schedules while instilling acceptance of the change in employees.

Leadership Skills Action Plan

Transitional Change

Transitional Change deals with replacing what is currently in place with a new concept, procedure, equipment, or policy. It begins with recognizing a problem within the current framework that cannot be resolved with a simple developmental change.

The purpose of the change is to improve productivity, efficiency, and/or quality of service to meet emerging demands.

Dr. Jackson describes this as a second-order change because it is a planned and intended change to implement a new direction in the organization. It requires thought, a predetermined need for change coupled with an in-depth and critical assessment of the purpose of the change.

This will result in the desired outcome and intended improvement of the change within the overall organization.

Drawing on past research and writings, Jackson outlines specific strategies relative to Transition Change, which include the following:

  • Clearly establishing and communicating the need for the change;
  • Developing a clear plan for implementing the change;
  • High involvement with those impacted by the change in designing and implementing the change;
  • Allowing local control of the implementation of the plan; and
  • Providing adequate support and integration time to ensure that people are succeeding in the new state.

Additionally, these strategies need to include training to develop new skills and continual communication throughout the change process to allow for realignment and renegotiation.

Another important strategy to improve motivation and maintain focus on transitional successes is to create transition rituals that not only mourn the past but also celebrate the future.

Straight Line Change

Transformational Change is by far the most complex and difficult change to implement. Before this type of change can be implemented, several analyses must be completed to examine what they were, what they are, where they need to be, and how to get there.

This type of change is much more than a straight-line or linear change with simple procedural or policy differences in the organization.

People must change transformational: from what they were doing to a whole new way of thinking about what they do, as well as how they may be doing it.

Transformation change involves several periods of adjustment, growth, initial success, chaos, and wake-up calls. It also includes a shift in strategy/process, followed by a re-emergence resulting from visioning and learning.

The below diagram illustrates the process:

Changing Leadership Qualities

Successful Change

Successful Transformational Changes require all the implementing strategies of the above two change processes. Additionally and most importantly, this process may require the hiring of an external Organizational Development (OD) expert to manage the change process.

OD experts are more skilled in the process and assist management in working through the process smoothly.

As can be seen from this discussion, change by command is no longer a plausible method of implementing change in an organization.

The process needs to be fully and thoroughly explained to employees throughout the organization; employee buy-in is imperative and requires strong leadership with superior communication skills to overcome push-back.

To be completely implemented, the change must be championed by top-down leadership throughout the process – each one serving the needs of the other for successful completion.

How Do You Handle Paradigm Shifts?

If you have ideas about paradigm shifts that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

Would you like to contribute a post?

David McCuistion
David McCuistion
David is a retired Naval Officer with extensive leadership and management experience including Officer-in-Charge of a major communication facility, in secondary education teaching leadership, and over five years public speaking on Servant Leadership and organizational development topics.
  • John Wade says:

    I like the approach in this article, and the different kinds of change require different methodologies – although all require the same basic principles of process, people and technology (in its purest sense of a system which changes an item from one state to another).

    I am reminded of Dynamic Stability, which has less of a focus on people and more on the organisation, and takes the same systems-thinking approach as David McCuistion. DS has states of tinkering, kludging and pace. The combination of these articles is a powerful way of adapting the process of change to the circumstances of change, including readiness to change.

  • David McCuistion says:

    John: I think you make a great point. Anytime that you include the human piece of the puzzle with the organizational objectives and systems, it is a win-win situation and the change process is smoother.

    I appreciate your comment. Thank you.

  • John Awute says:

    Nice piece. It should be noted that Transformational change is very expensive to implement.

  • David McCuistion says:

    For sure, especially if recovering from an expensive downward trend.

  • Sonya DeBurr says:

    This was very interesting and I like how you defined the three types of change. I’m pretty certain that most people don’t really think about the differences yet they are critical in the planning of change.

    Lastly, if you didn’t say a mouthful here, “To be completely implemented, the change must be championed by top-down leadership throughout the process — each one serving the needs of the other for successful completion.”

    In MY experience, THIS has been my biggest challenge. Senior leadership SAYS they want and need change, but when you try to implement it (with their advanced buy-in) they will back-pedal on you. This implodes the credibility of the change and the person charged with implementing it.

  • David McCuistion says:

    Thank you Sonya for the comment. Your comment about implosion when upper-level leadership doesn’t really support one’s change initiative is very true; especially if it does not directly affect the bottom line.

  • Victor K.Barnes says:

    Thanks so much this Section teaching is very helpful to me,I really appreciate it.

  • Victor K.Barnes says:

    Victor Barnes
    This is a very rich Document, appreciated.

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