9 Why Do Some Leadership Styles Accomplish Change?

Wail Kailani

Change is the desired outcome for any successful leader.  Life is always changing and evolving, and a significant role for leaders is to adapt accordingly.  The meaning of change depends on the situation, but in the context of leadership, it refers to adapting and evolving to become a better person, organization, or society.  Change is often resisted by people when faced with something new, which adds to the complexity of leadership and change.  This paper will explore multiple leadership approaches and how they try and accomplish the desired change in people and organizations alike.

People resist change for a variety of reasons.  The reason could be because employees do not trust their leaders enough to follow them to the new way.  Another reason to resist change could be concerns about what the new change will cost in financial terms.  The fear of losing one’s income is a reason to fear change because the change in organizations is often associated with downsizing.  According to Roberto (2011), being afraid of change sometimes comes down to a psychological fear of failure and the unknown (p. 24).  Because of the reasons mentioned here, uncertainty and stress associate with change.

People and organizations need an adaptive leader to guide them through the change.  As the name indicates, an adaptive leader is one who can adapt and help the followers adapt to change.  According to Northouse (2016), adaptive leadership “focuses primarily on how leaders help others do the work they need to do, in order to adapt to the challenges they face” (Northouse, p. 258).  An adaptive leader inspires his followers to change and adapt for the better.

Some scholars think leadership is a trait and that it is all about the leader’s personality characteristics.  Others argue that leadership is a skill that depends on the leader’s capabilities.  While it is true that some skills and traits are good and useful for a leader to have, that does not necessarily mean that people without those skills and traits cannot lead.

When thinking of leadership and its responsibilities, an old proverb rings true, heavy is the head that carries the crown.  Being a leader is not an easy task.  The definition of leadership changed throughout the decades, and is, according to Northouse “a complex process having multiple dimensions” (p. 1).  Put in layman’s term, a leader is a person in charge.  A smoother definition comes from the famous leadership author John C. Maxwell, who says “a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way” (Maxwell).  Leadership starts by changing oneself for the better, to changing organizations and nations.

Another example of leadership utilizes power and domination and can be referred to as authoritative or coercive leadership, which as all leadership styles, it can impact societies and organizations alike.  Hitler and Saddam are examples of such coercive leaders on a societal level. As has proven by history, coercion does not lead to satisfactory results.  It is quite the opposite, people living under a coercive leader or regime are often scared and unhappy.  They are told what to do so they do not think for themselves and follow blindly.  This kind of leadership might be able to get quick results from its followers in the short term, but it will diminish creativity and independent thinking in long-term.  Eventually, people revolt against such leaders the first chance they get.  The change that this kind of leadership accomplishes is not for the common good but instead, serve a selected few.

Followers will follow a leader because of fear or love.  The latter lasts longer because people tend to follow and imitate the ones they highly respect and hold as role models.  This kind of leadership is sometimes called servant leadership.  It requires the leader to “be attentive to the concerns of their followers, empathize with them, and nurture them” (Northouse, p. 225).  For leaders who fall into this category, it is all about serving their followers and empowering them. Mother Teresa is a good example of such leadership.  The change that resulted from her leadership had a huge lasting societal impact through building and operating hospitals and schools all over the world.

Mother Teresa’s leadership sometimes falls under a larger leadership category approach called transformational leadership. If a leader can transform his followers and the workplace, then he is a transformational leader.  A transformational leader will appeal to the moral values of the followers, whereas a transactional leader will appeal to the self-interest of the followers (Roberto, 2011).  Transform is just another word for change, and transformative leaders transform their societies and organizations to be better.



A Personal Experience with Change

The organization I worked for went through changes that affected everyone and unfortunately not for the better.  Over seven years, the administration changed personnel so frequently that it became hard to know who oversees whom.  Some ended up with multiple bosses, whereas others did not have any.  I ended up with no boss for several years, and the whole organization seemed to be in chaos.

The problem started when the president of the organization decided to retire after more than a decade on the job.  Due to lack of qualified applicants interested in applying for the job, the human resources department failed to find suitable candidates.  When they finally hired a replacement for the president, it was someone with no experience.

The new president started hiring her cabinet members, who in turn started hiring new administrators and firing some of the old ones. The new president and her cabinet did not consult with employees who have been working there for a while.  Resentment started building among the employees of the organization, and their morale was at an all-time low.

It was revealed in less than a year that the new president mishandled some organizational funds poorly and calls for the president’s resignation started becoming louder that it eventually made it to the media and the local community got involved.  The president was let go, but that did not solve the tensions in the organization.  Three and half years after that, the organization still could not agree on finding a permanent president.  Lots of high management personnel quit the organization.  Due to leadership failures in not managing and adapting correctly to change, my organization failed in reaching its potentials.

This paper presented the importance of change and how it is accomplished through different leadership approaches.  Change can target oneself as well as groups in organizational or societal settings.  It goes on to explain why change is frequently needed and why people and organizations often resist it.  There is the good change, change for the betterment of the society and the common good. There is the bad change; a change that is forced upon societies by authoritarian regimes and dictatorships for limited personal gains.  A good leader does not have to be born a leader but can learn and adapt to become an influential leader who can transform his followers and bring the desired change to organizations and communities.







Maxwell, J. C. (n.d.). John C. Maxwell quotes. Retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johncmaxw383606.html

Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: theory and practice (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Roberto, M. A. (2011). Transformational leadership: how leaders change teams, companies, and organizations. Chantilly, VA: Teaching Co.


Change: A Leader's Perspective Copyright © 2017 by Wail Kailani. All Rights Reserved.

Share This Book