Managing Change Still Top Leadership Challenge

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<p><strong>Princeton, N.J. &mdash; April 25</strong><br />Managing change continues to be at the top of the corporate leadership agenda, according to a study by global consultants BlessingWhite.&nbsp; </p><p>Leading teams through organizational change is found to be extremely or very challenging by nearly half of 900 executives surveyed who manage employees in the financial services, pharmaceuticals, high technology and manufacturing industries.<br /><br />Managing change is often seen as a core leadership development issue, said BlessingWhite CEO Christopher Rice.&nbsp; </p><p>&ldquo;Nevertheless, the study suggests the usual approaches to leadership development aren&rsquo;t delivering solutions,&quot; he said. &quot;The latest data call to mind how worrisome change is for many management teams. If anything, it&rsquo;s gotten tougher, with more middle managers saying they&rsquo;re change weary.&rdquo;<br /><br />Among the study&rsquo;s findings is an indication leaders are meeting with increased resistance to change, especially at the middle-management level.&nbsp; </p><p>&ldquo;The board may pivot at any moment, and so can an agile CEO,&rdquo; Rice said. &ldquo;But getting the next echelon to move proves to be a lot harder. There&rsquo;s always a call for resilience and flexibility but not enough guidance how to go about it.&rdquo;<br /><br />Although every major company pursues leadership development today, goals and methods vary widely, Rice said.&nbsp; </p><p>&ldquo;Frequently leadership programs are little more than speaker preparation for spin control,&quot; he said. &quot;What companies end up with is a kind of &lsquo;leadership development lite.&rsquo;&rdquo;<br /><br />Instead, Rice said organizations must focus on substance and content. </p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s what is truly important,&quot; he said. &quot;After all, the critical part is getting the top management team to have a clear fix on the strategic direction, and how that translates for different parts of the organization. The strategy has to be communicated so people understand what they need to do and care enough to do so even if it disrupts their routine.&rdquo;<br /><br />Based on the BlessingWhite study, it might be pointless to address leadership as a purely training or development issue.&nbsp; </p><p>&ldquo;Doing so tends to put the task in the wrong hands,&quot; he said. &quot;In our experience, the best executives are students of their own leadership. They&rsquo;re already on their journey, and where consultants might contribute is helping to mobilize the other essential players in the organizational shift.&rdquo;<br /><br />Senior executives get to where they are based on what is called &ldquo;competence,&rdquo; Rice said.&nbsp; </p><p>&ldquo;We mean business aptitude, a strong focus and clarity about what they want to achieve and a strong point of view,&quot; he said. &quot;Indeed, in our experience most leaders score high on competence, which is their admission ticket to the senior suite. But our research on high-performing leaders also indicates that most leaders score lower on &lsquo;connection skills&rsquo; &mdash;&nbsp; effectiveness in providing meaning, not just information, and in demonstrating empathy and building trust.&rdquo;<br /><br />BlessingWhite gathered data from surveyed 898 executives who manage technical professionals at more than 30 organizations across four continents.</p>

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