Top 10 Competencies for Change Leaders

September 19, 2012 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Change Management,Leadership

Top 10 Competencies for Change Leaders
By Gail Severini

What competencies do leaders and agents need to excel at in order to be successful? Are you building a Community of Practice or Center of Excellence? What’s on your list?

Below is my top-ten list for change leaders. In two weeks, the post will list my top-ten competencies for change agents – and a bonus list for change targets.


  • The lists are only loosely prioritized because, given that every application (organization/initiative) is different, competencies may be more or less relevant in that context.

  • Some of these items might not fit the full technical definition of a “competency”. Some are mindsets. All can be developed.

Change Leaders

  1. Determination and discipline – The leader …“Has a profound resolve toward the specific shifts the organization has identified as essential for its future success, and not just a generic interest in change.” And, has the personal discipline to adhere to the path and take difficult and challenging actions.

  2. Self-Knowledge and mindfulness – The ability to be calm in the midst of high-stress, dynamic change comes from being centered as a person. Knowing and accepting oneself, even while continuously striving to be better, is part of it. The ability to concentrate and be attentive to other people and concepts, to think deeply and calmly, is another part. These are intricately connected.

  3. Realistic optimism – “Type-O people view life as a set of constantly shifting, interacting parts that can produce a rising number of combinations. Each day, Type-O people assume that a new set of opportunities will emerge that will produce even more demanding challenges.”

  4. Strategic thinking – Create a vision and the path to navigate to it. While this might sound like classic white-collar, MBA-stuff, I mean it in the grisly, School of Hard Knocks sense – complete with battle scars.

  5. Stewardship – There are as many ways to lead an organization, and change, as there are leaders. I admit to a strong bias, that I hazard a guess that many share, to follow leaders who see their role as “the willingness to be accountable for the well-being of the larger organization by operating in service, rather than in control of those around us.”

  6. Integrative thinking – Once we accept that transformational change presents enormous ambiguity it becomes obvious that the ability “to hold two conflicting ideas in constructive tension”.

  7. Culture awareness – An understanding of organizational culture generally, this organization’s current and desired cultures specifically, as well as plans for making the shift.

  8. Influences others – Once a leader is personally committed to the change, the next challenge is to garner the same deep level of commitment from others. This begins with the leader’s ability to influence others.

  9. Good judgment – The ability to make great decisions is actually rare, and extraordinarily valuable. “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.” (Bob Packwood).

  10. Make meaning – Making the change relevant to every resource who has to make the transition is key. It is an unusual capability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to understand how the change affects them and then to help them understand it and navigate their way through it. Making sense of the change for individuals is the first step and a continuous process.

School of Hard Knocks and Sherpas

There is no greater teacher than experience. Whether you are a leader or an agent, every experience will teach you more than any training, and arm you more than any tool or methodology. Find ways to work with more experienced practitioners and, if possible, find a mentor. Mentors can be like sherpas – they have traveled the journey many times before and can act as interpreters and guides.

Gail Severini is a professional management consultant specializing in leading and managing change and strategic marketing. She draws on 20+ years with premier Canadian and off-shore financial services companies such as Royal Bank of Canada, CIBC (bank and insurance), HSBC and Butterfield Bank as well as for health care providers, post secondary education and manufacturing organizations. She is a graduate of Queen’s University, earned the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation in 1993, became Certified in Prosci Research’s Change Management Methodology in 2009 and has continued to invest in professional development through the Strategic Leadership Forum and Project Management Institute.

As founder of the Symphini Change Management Inc ( vision, she is a relentless advocate for managed progress, both strategic and tactical, and for mastery of change management. Symphini is a management consulting firm specializing in transforming businesses by leveraging people, process and technology through change.

1 person has left a comment

Hello all. Firstly, thanks so much to PM Hut for carrying another of my posts! Thrilled to be among such terrific information here!

Secondly, are you implementing “transformational” change? You know Portfolios of massive change across national and international organizations? I am interested in comparing notes.

I am committed full time to Conner Partners – renowned in the field of Strategic Execution and Change Management ( Transformational change is all we do – if your initiative needs some change leadership support let’s talk.

You can reach me at


Gail Severini wrote on September 22, 2012 - 8:58 am | Visit Link

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