The Leader as Change Agent
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Q1: If you were to be a consultant to all the principals in this case, how would you approach the engagement, using Block’s Flawless Consulting phases?
A1: The problem of resistance to change appears to be one of the prominent issues involved in the leaderful role’s devolution. As asserted by Raelin (2010), the major role of the change agent with regard to the development of leaderful qualities in the others lies in his/her ability to enable the learners dependent upon him/her to become “more capable of accepting greater levels of responsibility for their own and others’ actions” (Raelin 2010, p. xx), which would be impossible without the constant practice thereto. Hence, the failure of the manager’s attempt to devolve a part of leadership responsibilities to the employee who was long accustomed to the blind obedience and mistrusted the management’s initiatives would scarcely be surprising, given the organization’s institutional climate that was hardly conducive to the independent leaderful practices (Raelin 2010, p. 97).
Therefore, the use of the steps recommended by Block (1999) with respect to overcoming resistance to organizational change may be proper here. As observed by Block, the best strategy toward dealing with such resistance is “to help the resistance to blow itself out”, rather than fighting it headlong (Block 1999, p. 161). Consequently, Block offered three major steps of overcoming the resistance, which may be applied to the situation at hand: (a) “picking up the cues” (i.e. gaining the knowledge of the possible resistance out of visual and informal cues on behalf of the client; hence, the consultant may have understood the causes of the worker’s reluctance when observing her actions); (b) “naming the resistance” (i.e. communicating in a plain and neutral form of the fact of the resistance to the manager), and (c) receiving the feedback of the manager with regard to the data collected (Block 1999, pp. 163-169). While the main problem in this sequence is connected with the manager’s response to the statement of the problem in his business strategy, it would seem that Block’s method of presenting information on overcoming resistance could be conducive to the settlement of the issues outlined in the respective case.
Q2: Using the Leaderful Fieldbook excerpt and the Ford and Ford article, explain how the phenomenon of resistance as well as the psychology of resistance are at play in the ‘Landmines’ case and how a manager might ‘work with’ the resistance.
A2: The precise definition of ‘resistance’ is generally hard to arrive at. As elaborated by J Ford and L Ford (2010), the resistance behaviours would generally encompass such practices as “not responding to requests in a timely manner, making critical or negative comments, and agreeing to do something and then not doing it” (Ford & Ford 2010, p. 24). In case of the resistance mentioned in the Leaderful Fieldbook’s excerpt (Raelin 2010, p. 97), the worker’s passivity may be clearly regarded as a classical example of the resistance bordering on sabotage.
As to the psychology of the resistance, Ford & Ford view the concept of resistance as arising out of managerial attempts to blame either general social dynamics or their own missteps for their subordinates’ unwillingness to follow upon their orders (Ford & Ford 2010, p. 26). Proceeding from the particulars of the managerial climate at the organization mentioned in Raelin’s (2010) case study, one may deduce that the manager’s appeal to the worker’s resistance as an alleged rationale to curtail the single grassroots decision making experiment undertaken for the whole duration of his career is motivated by the former’s lack of appropriate attention toward establishing some kind of mutual confidence between himself and his subordinates (Ford & Ford 2010, p. 26). In turn, it is this lack of confidence that spurs the employee’s resistance and contributes to her mistrust of the management.
Q3: What is the role of the ‘readiness of the client’ in the change process?
A3: According to Raelin (2010), the change toward leaderful practice cannot be conceivably carried out without the conscious desire on behalf of the learners to participate in this very process. In particular, the importance of emotional attachment to the process of leaderful change, with the subsequent formation of the subjects’ new self-identities, cannot be underestimated in this regard (Raelin 2010, p. 91). Subsequently, the desirability of organizational change plays a significant role in the learners’ capacity to assimilate the tenets of the leaderful practice as the basis of organizational change.
Moreover, certain discrepancies may be easily observed with respect to the clients’ ability to comprehend the need for leaderful change. Raelin (2010) defines several groups of the adopter population, proceeding from their relative readiness to take upon the leaderful roles. Thus, such categories as innovators or early adopters tend to be initiators or at least “encouraging of the new ideas and practices,” together constituting not more than 15% of the adopter population (Raelin 2010, p. 96). At the same time, such groups as the late majority and the laggards (comprising 50% out of the total) act as conservative/traditionalist burden upon the leader’s attempts to promote leaderful change practices. When taken into account, such problem would be justly regarded as one of the most significant obstacles in that direction.
Q4: Can Lewin’s change model, as articulated by Schein (1999), be used to more effectively manage the change process in this case?
A4: The Lewin’s change model, which may likewise be dubbed as ‘unfreezing’ model, is based upon three main principles that should be considered here: (a) disconfirmation as the development of a new information processing framework based upon the state of dissatisfaction with the previous one; (b) cognitive redefinition on the basis of such processes as the induction or guilt or overcoming of learning anxiety; and (c) personal and relational refreezing, based upon the assimilation of the new assumptions and/or role models (Schein 1999).
In the case outlined by Raelin (2010), the use of Lewin’s model would enable the manager to reach out to the mistrusting employee in the novel and surprising way, rather than abruptly declaring his intention to re-define some responsibilities out of the blue. Thus, a process of disconfirmation may then begin, allowing the employee to become more receptive to the inflow of new skills and knowledge related to leaderful practice.