“The Reasons Why Many Change Programmes Fail”

Part 10

Inappropriate or Lack of Leadership

This month I am looking at another reason why significant change programmes can fail… “Inappropriate or Lack of Leadership”

As you know I write these blogs from my own practical perspective gained from over 20 years management consultancy experience implementing large scale change programmes in large organisations.

I can say without doubt the single most critical component in managing change  is strong leadership both at a senior level and also closer to the “coalface” with middle and first line supervisory managers.

I’ve labelled this blog “inappropriate leadership” and I’ve also included “lack of leadership”. Basically what I mean by this is well meaning people use the wrong style of leadership or in many cases senior leaders don’t show leadership at all where it is required.

That sounds harsh but there are many examples where senior leaders have agreed to a significant business improvement or transformational change programme and forget that they have a critical part to play in that and can’t stand back and work on other things. They have to show they are “in it” as well.

I am sure none of this is done consciously. Everyone sets out to do a good job and support business performance the best they can.

However these are the key areas I’ve witnessed that highlights this opportunty:

  • Leaders not behaving in the way they expect others to. There’s quite a lot of psychology involved in this, but to keep it practical, many employees “mirror” their bosses and what bosses do gives an indication of what employees expect of themselves. So as simply as I can say it, “if leaders don’t behave differently very few others will”
  • Leaders not using the right style of leadership at the most appropriate situation. This manifests itself where at the beginning of a programme for example, Leaders need to be directive and instructional, but their more natural style is to coach or delegate. However, this doesn’t work when people need instructions because they’re going into doing new things, regardless of how experienced they are in the other parts of their job. “Its often, not want is said, but the way it is said too”
  • Some Leaders rarely leave their office and walk the operation to have general chats with the workforce. This is absolutely key to assess how people are adapting to new work process is and trying to generate new ideas and ways of working. I believe part of the reasons why some don’t do this is; they believe they have to have all the answers when asked questions when actually an endearing quality of a leader is to say “I don’t know, I’m in this together with you, what do you think, can we work together on this?”
  • Senior managers are used to being in meetings. However many meetings are still highly ineffective. Lots of discussion and debate, which is important, but this often leads to the lack of clear defined tangible actions. This gives the Illusion for some leaders believing they are engaged in a programme, but with the minimum amount of actions they deliver this engagement has a reduced effect on the desired outcomes of the programme. It is a trait with some groups with strong academic backgrounds that they understand the methodology of the process and understand what is required of them to contribute but actions are still required so show leadership. As we say “knowing is not doing”

Whinge over, what can be done?

With every NewLeaf Transformational Change Programme there is always a senior leadership component within the design, such as Senior Leadership Steering, which forms governance over the programme. However, within that component there is the development of the leaders too. To coach and support the programme as well as sponsor significant projects . You should do the same.

One tool we use for this is the 3 E’s

  • Envisioning
  • Enabling
  • Energising

Below highlights the key behaviours within these three leadership competencices. This is just an illustration and I highly recommend that you contact us for our EBook on “Leadership in Change Programmes”, and how these skills can be developed in your leadership groups.


  • Focus the organisation on the key objectives and strategies
  • Demonstrate integrity in all you do
  • Personally, communicate the vision and “what you stand for” – both in words and in actions
  • Recognise the past, understand the present, create the future
  • Create a picture of the future people can accept/generate enthusiasm/achieve personal success (share your personal purpose, vision, values etc.) and keep the vision alive
  • Focus on possibilities – not limitations
  • Keep the vision alive over time
  • Effectively delegate


  • Define and develop the capability required to deliver the strategy
  • Select the right people
  • Express support/confidence in the ability of others
  • Promote unconventional approaches to seek/find/use successes
  • Personally participate in high leverage system improvements
  • Identify and eliminate organisational barriers only the leader can
  • Reward and celebrate successes
  • Develop others to lead
  • Manage boundaries and distractions (stand your ground)
  • Build in continuity among key leadership (succession planning)
  • Establish the necessary systems to transition to daily management
  • Proactively learn (using benchmarking and data-based problem solving) and create opportunities for other to do likewise
  • Value the unique differences that individuals bring to the organisation
  • Provide consistent focus on a manageable set of priorities
  • Tailor behaviours to the specific situation… practice situational leadership
  • Demonstrate sufficient mastery to do one’s job
  • Personally lead the career development process
  • Effectively delegate to others


  • Communicate a positive vision (both their own and the organisations) personally model it and leave an individual stamp on the business
  • Personally demonstrate enthusiasm and risk taking
  • Demonstrate a sense of urgency
  • Listen, understand, share the feelings of others
  • Set goals, establish high standards, clearly define roles/responsibilities – provide a consistent focus
  • Strive for brevity, clarity, the simple solution. Treat time as a precious commodity
  • Openly and honestly communicate – encourage others to do the same
  • Coach individuals on the behaviours that enable them to maintain focus
  • Role model the vision
  • Demonstrate caring for people – build trust

Get in touch for an informal chat about you, us, and your opportunity.

Martin Gummery, Managing Director, NewLeaf International Ltd

Tel: 01905 425209

Email: headoffice@newleafinter.co.uk