“These programs on change management. How come they aren’t called change leadership programs?”

January 18, 2013

Tudor Rickards

This great question was asked at a recent leadership programme. What would your reply have been?

The course had been asked to study chapter one of Dilemmas of Leadership. The introductory session had been a discussion on its messages for leaders and leadership development. 

“Think of the basis of our beliefs as maps” I said “and in making decisions, try to test those beliefs.”

“what’s the difference between leaders and managers?” one student then asked.

“You can use the mapping metaphor” I said. “the way we think about leaders is our leadership map. The way we think of managers is our management map.”

“Arndt they the same” asked another student?”

“Depends on your maps” I replied.  “For some people it is just one map.  Other folk see them as completely different.  This puts leaders as quite different from managers. For me, the maps overlap.  Mostly, a manager is a role allocated to a person, while a leader is not commonly considered as an allocated role.”. 

I could have added that this treatment of mapping also avoids any search for an absolute definition of a term like leadership.  Each individual can assert a personal definition of a term for the purposes of discussion and based on a personal map.  The map helps us explain “What I mean by leadership when I am talking about it.”

Returning to our earlier question, and applying the mapping vocabulary, we now can see where it takes us.

“These programs on change management. How come they aren’t called change leadership programs?”

Here’s my take on it.  Change programs (or programmes) are often found within a map I sometimes call the Dominant Rational Model.  These focus on the formal and managerial.  Leadership resists efforts to be completely subsumed in the managerial map( see above).

This perspective suggests that change programmes may be heavily influenced by a managerial perspective.   This too often is reinforced by maps for project management which emphasize the rational and quantifiable.  ( ‘six  sigma’ , one student suggested , might be an example).

Leadership development programmes increasingly point to other dimensions or maps to consider.  Dilemmas of ethics and ways of creating visions abound.

In other words, change programs may be too attached to rational models of management, and therefore miss the contribution that could come from ideas found though examination of the contents of leadership maps.