Change Management and Change Leadership: A Critical Relationship

In this blog, I will evaluate the concepts of Management and Leadership within the most challenging environment – a changing environment. Let’s begin at the beginning, and distill the unique natures of Change Management and Change Leadership.


Unique – But Complimentary

The roles differ substantially, but they don’t compete with or inhibit each other; they supplement and complement each other.

If either role is to be successfully executed the other must also exist, and each must focus on unique interests.

Visionary leadership combined with effective management is the ideal working model, one we should promote within our own organizations.


Within the Context of the Change Management Process

Change Management is a term we have all heard and regularly use. Unfortunately, we seem to use it generically, lacking the level of precision which would clearly differentiate between Managing Change and Leading Change.

The process of Change Management includes programs, practices, and processes developed to control any attempt to move from a current state to a future state.

When change is underway, the most basic concern of the manager is the preservation of focus; minimizing distractions and controlling the impact of the change. The tools and processes utilized by the Change Management Process have been designed to:

  • Define and assess the impact of proposed change
  • Align the stakeholders understanding of the change
  • Control the scope of the change
  • Predict and manage the logistical challenges the implementation of change will present

The Change Leader Inspires

Change leaders constantly and critically assess the current situation, creating a vision of a smarter and more effective future state. This vision drives transformative change and provides the energy for the engine of change.

Change leadership defines goals and establishes the high-level pathway of transformation. Leadership, or the absence of leadership, has a dramatic effect on every organization. Effective leadership sets the primary value system for, and maximizes the potential energy of, the entire organization.

While managing change is tool-based (using established processes, supplemented by widely recognized tools), leading change is principle- and behavior-based. Planning, organizing, and controlling are at the heart of management, while defining, influencing, and inspiring are at the heart of leadership.

In the context of change, leaders deal with teams that, while not fully self-managing, have a very high degree of decision-making latitude. In this capacity, leadership skills must be applicable to dealing with relatively autonomous teams, engaged in complex tasks under non-routine conditions.

In these situations, leaders must be able to effectively:

  • Innovate and create comprehensive targets
  • Set direction, establish and communicate vision
  • Gain commitment
  • Create alignment
  • Overcome inertia and resistance to change

In a role that is shaped predominately by the need to create new realities, where established programs and tools are not of use, leaders must possess or quickly develop critical strengths that will enable them to effectively achieve these goals.

Whether vertical or shared leadership models are in place, the most necessary leadership strengths fall into the following categories:

  • Core Attributes:
    Integrity/honesty, confidence, influence, emotional intelligence, approachability/good humor
  • Cognitive Attributes and Skills:
    Strategic and divergent thinking, visionary, goal setting, decision making, innovation, creativity
  • Functional Skills and Experience:
    Technical exposure or expertise, problem solving, operational and analytical awareness
  • Interpersonal Skills:
    Communication, diversity consciousness, conflict management, coaching, mentoring
  • Business Attributes and Experience:
    Political savvy, customer focus, market awareness

The Change Manager Steers

Once the vision for change has been developed by the Change Leader, the act of managing the implementation of that change is steered by the Change Manager using a pre-defined set of process tools.

Common Change Management process components that are the responsibility of the Change Manager often include:

  • Readiness and Risk Assessments:
    Assessing the proposed change from every angle: organizational impact, resources required, timing considerations, material control, measurement techniques, areas impacted, predictable challenges, highest risk time points, and outcomes.
  • Definition of a Change Implementation Plan:
    Planning and communicating the detailed pathway to the future state. Generally, these plans define timelines, deliverables, roles, responsibilities, measurement points, acceptance criteria, and required output documentation.
  • Training:
    Developing and executing training materials that focus on the scope of the change.
  • Measurement of implemented change:
    Deploying and coordinating measurement mechanisms such as commissioning, metrology, qualification and validation, analytical laboratory technologies and/or product inspections. As these programs have their own internal management structures, the role of the change manager is to know when to deploy them and how to coordinate their activities.
  • Measurement of long-term effectiveness:
    Conducting surveillance of the impact of fully-implemented change, confirming the consequence of change meets expectations, and that unintended consequences of change are recognized and mitigated, if they exist.

The Critical Relationship

Whether we are managers or leaders, or managers in training to be leaders, complex challenges require a healthy relationship between the leadership and the managerial levels of any organization. The foundation of this cooperative relationship will be critical to our ability to navigate challenging situations.  

For instance:

Resolving a technical challenge may never need to go beyond the managerial level. An assessment of the situation may be result in tactical maneuver, such as a redistribution of resources or a shift in priority.

But when faced with a systemic challenge with no clear solution, assessment may result in the recognition of the need to quickly develop a strategy for creating new processes/systems/skills (adaptive) as opposed to a redistribution of them, or a drastic change in overall strategy/direction of the target or end point (critical). If the bridge between management and leadership is not intact and well understood when what looked like a technical challenge turns out to be an adaptive or critical challenge, the probability of resolving it quickly and effectively is greatly diminished.

The economic times we all now live and work within remind us that:

  • Innovation is critically important to success
  • Windows of opportunity come less often, and close quickly
  • Challenges are more complex, and the time available to overcome them is shorter

Given these realities, it is clear that we have to move faster and achieve more with less, while we continually reinvent ourselves, our working environments, and our processes. In fact, the greatest challenge we may face surviving our industrial futures is how well we organizationally shepherd change.

Dynamic leadership, coupled with effective management, is the path to survival. If organizations learn it and live it, they can do better than survive…

They can thrive.


This article can also be seen at Master Control/gxp-lifeline/.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2011 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


Gina Guido-Redden is a quality and regulatory professional with over 25 years of domestic and international industry experience. She is the co-founder and chief operations officer of Coda Corp USA, which provides consultancy services to pharmaceutical, biologics and medical device firms.

Guido-Redden’s history specializes in the areas of facility start up, regulatory compliance and remediation, quality system development, mentorship and training, quality system design, and implementation and management.

She is also a quality systems subject matter expert (SME), frequent seminar presenter, and content contributor to industry publications, including GAMP’s White Paper on Part 11, The Journal of Validation Technology, New Generation Pharmaceuticals, Computer Validation Digest, and MasterControl’s GxP Lifeline. Coda Corp USA is an enterprise partner of MasterControl.

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