Coaching Change Management from a Serving Leader Perspective

Effectiveness in leadership has a nexus between serving and change leadership approaches. An effective leader continually drives strategic and valuable change while simultaneously responding to the ever evolving business environment and fulfilling the mission of the organization and its employees. In essence, the one style of leadership increases the efficacy of the other. For example, driving meaningful enterprise wide change requires a leader to actively sponsor the change. This is the change leader’s opportunity to “Upend the Pyramid.” A truly active sponsor leads by not only words but by example, modeling the change for their team, finding ways to make acceptance easier by removing operational and political barriers and rewarding for new behaviors through attention and gratitude.

Likewise, the effective change leader continually “Runs to the Great Purpose.” Through difficult times of disruptive change, a change leader serves both the organization and the individual through defining the change in the framework of a greater goal. The leader articulates the individual’s sacrifice to the benefit of the goal. The change leader enables the employee to find value and purpose in their daily efforts and accomplishments so that motivations, efforts and results are aligned with the great purpose of the strategic change.

From a standpoint of leadership development, it is then imperative to teach and coach the model of change management with a serving leader perspective. To accomplish this, the two approaches should not be considered as simply similar and potentially complementary but rather integral, specifically considering the following when teaching and coaching a change management methodology:

  1. Create an appreciation for each approach as an enhancer of the other. In any credible change management methodology, active sponsorship by multiple layers of leadership is the single most influential aspect in managing disruptive organizational wide change. Active sponsorship of a change becomes powerful and more influential when the leader upends the pyramid - removing barriers that inhibit the employee, prioritizing the individual’s objectives according to the greater goal, and specifically working towards making it easier for the individual to change their behaviors.
  2. Offer serving leader tactics that operate within the framework of the change management model. Serving leaders build on the strengths of those around them and thereby create a more engaged, productive and content team. Too often when faced with disruptive inevitable change, leaders may respond to employee resistance as lack of will. However, lack of ability is a common cause of employee resistance to change. The serving change leader approaches resistance with more than one good faith attempt to provide information, alleviate fears, prioritize training and reward for positive new behaviors.
  3. Work within the cultural boundaries of the organization. The most productive, sustainable and least disruptive way to change an organizational culture is to change individual behaviors. In large complex organizations, changing behaviors on an individual level requires the patience, concern and dedication of a serving change leader. Behaviors are personal. Changing behaviors requires the leader to acknowledge the current culture while raising the bar for the individual. The leader sets a new expectation, demonstrates its importance and finds impactful manners by which to reward the individual. 

In general, today’s organizational leaders see a connection between leading change and the serving leader. However, to reap the benefits of the two in practice simultaneously, the coach, mentor or trainer should serve their coachee first by identifying the synergy between change management and serving leader.

John Porcari

John Porcari is the Serving Leader and Greater Goal Coaching Consulting Practice Director at Third River Partners, LLC, a Leader Development and Strategy Execution consultancy located in Pittsburgh, PA, and serving client everywhere.


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