Change Leadership Skills: Definition and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 17 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A change leader is someone who can guide an organisation through periods of disruption or uncertainty. Effective change leadership involves a wide range of competencies for inspiring others and making sound decisions. Understanding change leadership and the skills required to be a change leader can increase your value in your organisation. In this article, we define change leadership, show some of the essential skills for change leadership and provide some steps for developing these skills.

What are change leadership skills?

Change leadership skills are competencies that enable a change leader to create and promote a vision for change, inspire others to take part in the vision and guide them through the transition. It's a management style that helps an organisation adapt to changes in the business landscape and fosters growth and adaptability among its employees. For example, with the rapid increase of social media as a marketing tool, more companies have established social media teams and redirected their resources to them. A change leader can help to minimise uncertainty and conflict during such periods of disruption.

Change leadership can also be effective for helping an organisation through other organisational or enterprise-level changes. These include introducing new technologies or platforms, establishing or using new training programmes for professional development, preparing for various crises and reorganising workspaces.

Related: What Is Leadership? (With Key Elements of Leadership)

Examples of change leadership skills

The following skills and characteristics are essential to being an effective change leader:

Coaching

Coaching refers to the ability to guide others to improve. Rather than just directing employees to perform tasks, a change leader with strong coaching skills can empower them to improve themselves and their performance. Good coaching typically involves an attitude of encouragement and support and the tendency to counsel individuals who are experiencing challenges. In this way, a leader can improve employee engagement and accountability, inspiring an active interest in working through periods of change in the workplace.

Related: 15 Leadership Qualities You Need to Be a Great Leader

Collaboration

Collaboration is the act of working with others towards a common goal. When it comes to organisational change, which requires everyone to aim for the same objective, the ability to collaborate and inspire collaboration in your employees can help create a more cohesive and productive team. A team that collaborates well can optimise the strengths of the members and overcome their weaknesses. Collaboration can also facilitate the voicing of new perspectives, as the members of the team feel more comfortable about contributing new ideas that can ease the transition periods associated with change.

Commitment

Commitment means dedication to and engagement with a mission, cause or activity. Leaders can facilitate a successful organisational change by devoting their energy to it and actively taking measures that can improve its chances. This might mean putting in more time to support the change process, researching or devising methods to drive the process or facing any challenges that could arise with a positive attitude. Having and displaying commitment can make you a positive example to others, who may take inspiration from your actions.

Communication

Communication is the skill of conveying important information in a way that others can understand. When change occurs in an organisation, the employees may not know exactly what's happening or why. A change leader can explain both the extent of the transition and the reason for it. They can also promote its value and lead their team to see its usefulness by describing the potential advantages for the organisation and its members. Thus, change leaders earn the trust and support of their employees, which can lead to a successful organisational change.

Related: What Is Leadership Communication? (Definition and Examples)

Confidence and optimism

Confidence refers to a sense of belief in yourself, another person or a process. With change occurring in the organisation, it's important that you feel it can succeed, that your team can facilitate its success and that you can guide your team as the change occurs. Self-confidence can help you persist when you encounter challenges, and your belief in your team and the process can inspire similar confidence in employees.

Optimism is a sense of positivity that's often visible to others. This quality can influence your team, counteracting and undoing any negativity that may arise when encountering obstacles.

How to improve your change leadership skills

Here are three steps to improve change leadership abilities:

1. Communicate with employees

To develop your change leadership competencies, make sure you communicate with employees often. The main purpose of change leadership is to guide an organisation and its employees through change. Communicating with employees often allows you to inform them when changes are happening. If you establish that employees can speak openly with you, they may be more willing to ask questions and share concerns, which can make the transition easier for them.

2. Ask for feedback

To ensure that your plan for the company is going well, try asking for feedback. You can ask for input from employees, managers or even clients. Reading and implementing feedback helps your plan work efficiently, and it can also improve your change leadership capabilities. For example, other supervisors might give you feedback regarding some areas of improvement, which you can try to develop. Provide the organisation with a few ways to give you feedback, such as a survey or a forum.

3. Collaborate often

Another way to improve your change leadership expertise is to collaborate often. Many skills that apply to change leadership involve collaboration. For instance, you might coach employees and meet with managers, which involves collaboration. If you collaborate often, you can gain and use new perspectives that you might not have thought of beforehand. Ensure you make an effort to engage with various roles and types of employees to develop your skills and to learn more about others' opinions.

Related: Leader vs. Manager: 8 Key Differences Between Both Roles

Change leadership skills in the workplace

Here are some examples of these skills in the workplace:

  • Starting a new initiative: When planning a new initiative for an organisation, you use several skills, such as communication and commitment. For example, you might communicate with employees or other managers to inform them of recent policy changes.

  • Thinking of solutions: As you're coaching an organisation and guiding it through new changes, you might use problem-solving skills, which involve developing solutions when issues occur. Sometimes, going through a large change can cause issues during the transition period, so you can use problem-solving skills to resolve these issues.

  • Informing employees of changes: A large component of change leadership is keeping employees informed when changes happen. To do this, you might use communication skills to write effective emails or provide clear answers to people when they ask questions.

Related: 10 Types of Leadership Styles

How to highlight change leadership skills

If you're in the application process for a new position, it's helpful to know how to highlight your abilities. Follow these steps to help you showcase these skills during a job search:

Change leadership skills for a resume

To highlight your change leadership abilities on your resume, create a skills section. A skills section is usually a list of the skills you possess, separated by commas or vertical pipes. For example, you can include skills like commitment, coaching and confidence on this list. You can also add skills in your professional summary and employment section. Adding these skills to your resume shows the hiring manager you're a capable professional who can implement change management skills.

Change leadership skills for a cover letter

A cover letter is a one-page document that explains in detail why you're the ideal candidate for a role. In this letter, you typically include one to two paragraphs that describe your credentials, which is how you can highlight your change leadership abilities. Since you have more space in a cover letter than on a resume, you can include some detailed examples of how you used your change leadership expertise to benefit your previous employers.

Change leadership skills for an interview

While participating in an interview, you can display your change leadership expertise through your answers. As the interviewer asks you questions, try to incorporate your skills in your responses. If the interviewer asks you about your previous experience, you can talk about how you used these skills in a previous role and back up real-life examples with specific, measurable results. To prepare, research common interview questions for your career and practise answering them. While practising, make sure you incorporate your change leadership abilities into your responses.

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