Is Leadership Without Change Really Leadership?

Leadership is synonymous with change, because one of the most important aspects of leadership is change. (McCabe, 2008, p. 32) It is the leader who is at the center of group change (Stogdill, 1982, p.11-20), and it is the correlation of leadership and change that differentiates leaders from managers. Management provides order and consistency to an organization as a primary focus, which leads to stability for members. (Northouse, 2013,p. 13) In contrast, leadership primarily focuses on producing adaptive and constructive change while causing forward movement in an organization. (Northouse, p. 13) This forward movement is essential to any thriving, healthy organization. Without intentional direction of forward movement an organization runs the risk of slipping into lethargic routine and organizational decay, which, according to the second law of thermodynamics, leads to dissonance and maximum entropy. (Boyatzis, 2008, p. 306)


The mistake that was made by early 20th century leaders was to disregard the needs of followers and adhere to the ‘great man’ model of leadership. (Northouse, p. 19) Almost one hundred years later, leaders understand that healthy change must come through noncoercive influence rather heavy-handed coercion. (Northouse, p.4) It is not healthy for leaders to make followers change, but leaders can help followers see the wisdom of changing behavior, and behavioral change can result in changes in beliefs, attitudes, and values. (Hultman, 2001, Kindle Location 361-362) It is through the influential relationship of leaders to followers that serves as a catalyst for change, which requires leadership (Kouzes, 2012, p.166). Initiating change is a highly critical role of leaders, (McCabe, p. 40) and the quality of a leader is paramount to determining the experience quality of followers navigating through change. However, to imagine a future of leadership where change is not a primary focus is to imagine a future without true leadership.




Boyatzis, R. E. (2008). Leadership development from a complexity perspective. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 60(4), 298–313. doi:10.1037/1065-9293.60.4.298

Hultman, K. (2001). Balancing Individual and Organizational Values: Walking the Tightrope to Success. Wiley.

Kouzes, J. M. (2012). The leadership challenge: how to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

McCabe, L. (2008). Jesus As Agent of Change: Tranformational and Authentic Leadership in John 21. Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership, Volume 2(No. 1), 32–43.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Stogdill, R. M. (1982). Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership: A Survey of Theory and Research, Revised and Expanded. (B. M. Bass, Ed.) (2nd edition.). New York: Macmillan USA.

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