The Change Leader: Framing Change

I’m considering aspects of change, #WorkingOutLoud as i explore the relationship between formal and social systems and the ways they impact on organisational change.

Formal and Social aspects of change

In their formal capacity, a leader with hierarchical authority and responsibility can set the direction of travel: they frame the change. Framing sets the parameters of the journey, but within a Dynamic approach to change, the formal leadership does not seek to define every footstep on the way. They rely on the community to co-create and co-own the details. This allows people to be invested in, and committed to, the change, because instead of leveraging them into it, we are magnetically drawing them towards it, allowing them to shape the future state in a meaningful way (it can’t be a token effort: which is why i says that the greatest challenge to the organisation is to be truly willing to relinquish control).

Once the direction is set, there are two aspects to change: the formal systems and the social ones. Formal systems are projects, governance, mitigation and management, budgetary and resource based.

The Social system is effectively the web of conversations, communities, loyalties, trust, social ties (both weak and strong), expertise, generosity, humility, recognition and reputation that swirl around the formal. It’s by far the stronger of the systems, although by far the least visible and can only be influenced through magnetism and permission.

Humility in Leadership

Within the formal system, we exert formal leadership: this is the type of leadership that the organisation is used to.

Within the social system, we may earn Social Leadership: permission to influence based upon the strength of our engagement within the social communities. This strength is forged upon our reputation, earned through the consistency of action, towards the community, over time. Social Leadership is contextual and consensual, granted to us by our community. It can effortlessly coexist with formal leadership, but is not reliant upon it.

Within this framework, we can engineer the mechanics of change into the formal organisational structure, but we have to nurture and earn the social aspects. That’s where Social Leadership counts: driving change from within, creating aligned energies.

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About julianstodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
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10 Responses to The Change Leader: Framing Change

  1. Sarah says:

    Very nice post and it just made me wonder – when formal and social leadership don’t sit with the same person (or set of people) how are differences of opinion addressed and resolved? Would social leadership always (or almost always) trump formal leadership in the Social Age? And if formal leaders work to develop relationships with social leaders (maybe to help align different perspectives), how can they do that without coming across as coercive or controlling?

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