How To Become A Change Leader

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A leader has a function to guide people, not just create a plan to follow. When it comes to implementing change in the organization, the best way is to have a person to support the process. In addition, this individual will help the rest of the company better adapt to the transformation.

On the other hand, a change agent may be able to create change in the company. This person has to be able to empathize with the company’s employees. In addition, he seeks a common benefit for both executives and other jobs.


  • We all have the ability to be a successful change leader. One characteristic is to exercise some soft, hard and practical skills.
  • People with effective communication are capable of leading a change, however, we have to keep in mind that there are different types of changes.
  • On the one hand, you must have attributes that only come with the practice of leading people. On the other hand, there are principles that are applicable to different types of change.

Tips for being a successful change leader

Before you begin, one question you can ask yourself is: why do I want to be a change leader? One thing leaders have in common is wanting to leave an imprint on places and people. Here are some basics for becoming a change agent.

Types of change within a company

One characteristic you need to be aware of is the types of change that occur in a company in order to be able to react correctly. There can be large-scale or small-scale changes. However, they can be reduced to four types of change (3):

  • Revolutionary – This occurs with changes within various large-scale departments in the company. Additionally, the work processes and phases of change are more structured.
  • Fractional – Changes are needed in several departments, but not all. Sometimes restructuring or revamping the work strategy is needed.
  • Concentrated – A change similar to the previous one, but the emphasis is on changing certain factors within one department.
  • Isolated – This case is more specific, as a specific problem has been found in one department of the company. It may be that a plan, process or order is not aligned with the company’s objectives.
(Source: Carolina Sarmiento Lee/

Change leader vs. administrative leader

Both types of leaders are needed to deal with change in a company. However, one has a different objective than the other, as a result, they face obstacles differently (2). Below, to find out what can lead you to be a change agent, you can see the differences between the two:

Style of change leaders and their benefits

Leaders adapt to the company’s environment. Even, the percentage of change in a company is going to dictate the leader that is needed. Different leaders will have certain benefits for the company (5). Thanks to the variety of decision-making, leaders emerge such as:

  • Transformational – Leads people to a change with a purpose outside of their personal interest. The purposes are usually for the benefit of the department, a group of people or the entire organization (4).
  • Transactional – Relates to one who constantly offers reinforcement to followers. In other words, he rewards people for their positive actions and recognizes the efforts of others (4).
  • Authoritarian – This type of leader is very determined with plans and not very flexible. On the other hand, he/she seeks precision of actions to reach a goal.
  • Individual democratic – Focuses on the internal part of the people, not only to give independence to those who have the capabilities. Also, he focuses on personality and character for the development of the team (7).
  • Permissive – One of the characteristics is the passion that is demonstrated. Because emotions are tied to decision-making, this type of leadership is more extroverted. Additionally, they listen to the opinions of others for personal development (6).
(Source: Carolina Sarmiento Lee/

Principles for being a change leader

Once you have the concept of the type of leader you want to be, you can work on your soft or internal skills. Likewise, you can develop your hard or more technical competencies. The leadership principles you need to keep in mind arise from the 7 R’s of change (1).

Qualities of a good leader

At some point, we have used intuition, emotions or previous experiences to achieve something. However, one quality may predominate over another and this is why we must have a balance of the four internal attributes of a leader (1). Below, you will see the four qualities that any change leader must have:

  • The inspirational dreamer – there is a part where we must let intuition guide us. In this way, we can innovate in the necessary areas of the company.
  • The critical analyst – This side of us is in charge of evaluating in detail all the elements that surround us. Before making a decision, you analyze and compare the available options.
  • The practical warrior – At this point, you separate the theory from the practical and show your proactivity. When you are ready to perform an action, you are ready to take action from your previous planning and analysis.
  • The emotion passionate – At times, when you can’t be proactive, but reactive, you have to know how to manage your emotions. Depending on the circumstances, you may have to be more flexible or less flexible to reach your goal. However, always keeping in mind to be empathetic.

Competencies of a change leader

When it comes to accomplishing a task, you can approach it in two ways. In the first instance, you might use intuition, emotions and previous experiences to accomplish it. On the other hand, your technical knowledge or learning helps you make the decisions. In other words, your competencies can also be developed by learning and applying the 7 R’s of change (9).

(Source: Carolina Sarmiento Lee/

Senior leaders vs. change leaders in the workforce

Change is inevitable, even 33.6% of companies feel it necessary to make at least five major transformations within three years (8). To address these changes, it is crucial that you know how long you have been with the company. The reason for this is that depending on your role in the company, your leadership style may change.

Senior leaders have more experience when it comes to acting on changes, due to the length of time they have worked at the company. If you are a senior leader, you should pay attention to ways to innovate, so you don’t fall into past mistakes. Additionally, senior leaders are more inclined to be transformational leaders than transactional leaders (10). Something that is understandable because of the purpose of each one, however, it must be remembered that being a leader does not imply having sides, but having a little of each attribute.

You have to find the balance of both sides in order to increase your competencies.

A leader in the workforce also has knowledge, however, they lack knowledge about transformations. Therefore, it is very important that they are curious about the attributes that senior leaders have. Also, senior leaders can learn from the innovative spirit of other workers. This type of leader prefers a transactional and transformational leadership style, as both support the company’s progress.

Initiating change in a company

Keep in mind that changes will depend on the company you work for. On the one hand, the specialization of the company is going to depend a lot because the demand will vary, that is to say, the customers’ demands will change (8). Another circumstance that affects is the size of the organization.

Once the first approach to understanding the company is done, make sure you know not only the change you want to make, but also why. Motivation is the key to convincing those you work with to support you in the transformations you want to make.

The next step is to create a plan which can be more useful if it is created by several people. Teamwork and active listening can help create a scheme that benefits many. It is also beneficial when it comes to implementing changes, as there will be less resistance from employees.

Resistance is a concept associated with Kübler’s change curve (11). If you want to increase the speed of your change, you must pay attention to your co-workers. In other words, you must guide your team through the change acceptance curve for the sake of the company’s and employees’ productivity. Once you have passed it, you can consider your change accomplished.

(Source: Carolina Sarmiento Lee/

Learn more about change leaders

The reality is that to be a change agent you will need time, effort and a lot of practice. For example, one way to get to know your inner leader is application. When you seek to exercise your knowledge, it can help you hone different aspects and find harmony in leadership styles.

Therefore, you don’t need to practice in a company; change may begin within your home or within your group of friends, in small situations. However, they are totally useful to start leading.

Additionally, you can research the most successful companies or those that have been in business the longest. One example is Microsoft, which has had to adapt to technological, labour and economic circumstances. Thanks to this, it has been able to be one of the best IT companies.

Culture, geography, current trends are some factors to learn from in order to adapt to the necessary change.

Thirdly, look for leaders who specialize in your area of work, although it is best to diversify your search. If you work in the technology area, you can focus on Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, in order to reinforce your practical knowledge. Similarly, you can look at the qualities of Maria Eitel, founder of Nike’s Girl Effect Foundation. Her example can guide you in fostering assertive communication.


How to be a change leader? You can see that this answer is not as simple as it seems. First, it takes a while to learn what it means to be a change. Because transformations can be as small as encouraging your co-workers.

A leader has several definitions, but a change leader means facing adversity. Additionally, he or she overcomes difficult situations, while encouraging and supporting the people around him or her. A change agent seeks to improve the organization with their passion and the motivation of others.


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3. Aquino, A. T., Silva, J. L., Melo, R. M., & Silva, M. M.. Organizational change in quality management aspects: a quantitative proposal for classification. Production, 27, e20162165; 2017. [2022]

4. Bass BM. Does the Transactional-Transformational Leadership Paradigm Transcend Organizational and National Boundaries? 2nd ed. Vol. 52. Binghamton, New York : American Psychological Association, Inc.

5. Perilla-Toro LE, Gómez-Ortiz V. Relationship of transformational leadership style with employee health and well-being: the mediating role of trust in the leader. Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos en Madrid. Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology; 2017 [2022].

6. Macias-Negrete EF, Enriquez-Perez EA, Zepeda E. Identifying the type of leadership in an automotive center: a diagnosis and critique. 3rd ed. Vol. 5. Juárez, Chihuahua: International Journal of Management & FINANCE; 2012.

7. Erke VI, Bubnova IS, Tatarinova LV, Berinskaya IV, Babitskaya LA. The leadership problem and style of managing the pedagogical staff of pre-school educational organization. Spaces . 2019;40 (0798 1015).

8. Zhexembayeva N. 3 Things You’re Getting Wrong About Organizational Change. Harvard Business Review. 2018 [2022].

9. Johnson B, Waterhouse P. The Seven R’s of Change Management. Enterprise Systems Journal. 2007 [2022].

10. Tziner A, Shkoler O. Leadership styles and work attitudes: Does age moderate their relationship? . Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology. 2018;34:195-201.

11. Alonso MA. Change management in organizations Cargill case. Torcuato Di Tella University. 2017 [2022]



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