Leadership and Change

Changes are nothing new and can happen at any given time or location. Sometimes, changes must happen in an organisation or else it will die (Deutschman 2007). A leader who is skilled in influencing people will have a better success in managing and leading the change in the organisation (Long 2012: 18). The change can be difficult and hard to achieve due to the personality of the individual especially those that are resistant to the change (Mullins 2010: 753).

Even though the reaction of the people to the change may be unpredictable or irrational, the change can still be manageable if it is done correctly (Reh 2014). It is said that for the change to be successful, sufficient number of people is needed for the change other than the leader. If the people wanting the change are more than 75%, the implementation of the change will be easier and the success rate of the change will higher as well (Kotter and Cohen 2002).


Figure 1: Leading a positive change in business (Source: Melara 2010).

It is not the strongest species that survive

Figure 2: It is not the strongest of the species that survives (Source: Purrington 2015).

While some people may be comfortable with the change and the challenges that came with it, there are still others that prefer the same status quo that they are comfortable in and refuse to accept or strongly resist the change (Mullins 2010: 753). There are many reasons which results in a person to be resistance to the change. However, the result will be disastrous if those that resist to the change are not managed properly and may even affect the company in various way like lack in cooperation of employees, drop in performance, or even worst the company may even cease to exist (Riley 2012).

Bad or no changes in the business at crucial time may lead the business into failure as can be seen in the BlackBerry case. BlackBerry was a successful smartphone maker but the growth of new products by Apple and Samsung had caused the company to lose most of their customers (Finkelstein 2014). It was reported that Mr. Heins, CEO of BlackBerry, did not take the advice on emphasizing the keyboard features which was still popular and instead went with the touchscreen feature for BlackBerry 10 product which was the cause of the drop in sales (Silcoff, McNish, and Ladurantaye 2013). The drop in market share is due to the failure of the new products which is not in accordance to the preference of the customers (Arthur 2013).

Figure 3: Thorsten Heins leaves BlackBerry (Source: Rowinski 2013).

Table 1: Common reasons why change is resisted (Source: Riley 2012).


Kurt Lewin’s introduction of the change management model in the 1950s has been beneficial for many managers in planning and managing the change in the organisation. The first step Unfreezing involves recognizing the insufficiency in old methods and ensuring that most employees are ready for the change itself. This can sometimes be difficult especially for those that resist to the change. It also requires the leader to have good influential skill in making them want to accept the change. The next step which is Change will be the execution of the change itself like developing new ways of doing things or even new attitudes. The final step which is Refreezing will be the implementation of the change and ensuring that the change is establish in the organisation (O’Loughlin 2013).

Figure 4: Organisation Development for Leaders (Source: O’Loughlin 2013).

Video 1: Lewin’s 3-step Organizational Change Model (Source: Vasquez and To 2012).

Another model which is more detailed and can be used in changing an organisation will be the eight-step process by Kotter (Kotter 1995). It is stated that this model by Kotter has a better understanding in managing change. The model also consists of detailed steps in ensuring a more appropriate changing process in the organisation (Stragalas 2010: 37). The main strength of this model will be in the urgency creation process and also the team guiding process (Gough 2009). These two important steps are very strong especially in determine where the change is required and instigating the change. After these two steps have been completed, the next step will be to maintain the change until it has been integrated into the organisation.

Figure 5: Eight-step process model (Source: Kotter International 2016).

The late Steve Jobs of Apple was one of the successful leaders that understood the importance and also the needs of change. Before his return, Apple was on the brink of dying mainly due to the lack in innovation (Yarow 2011). After his return to Apple in 1998, he made necessary changes to the company like changing the company to be more focus on the customers instead of just the profit (Denning 2011). His other strategies will be introducing and producing just only four core products which were the desktops and also portable devices (Fell 2011). By ensuring the hard work of the employees, the company was able to be revived.

Video 2: Steve Jobs interviewed just before returning to Apple (Source: Phillip 2011).

Leaders must also be aware that the change may not always work like what work in one place may not work in another. It is important for the leaders to understand that change is important in the company and that the change also requires people in order to make it work so that the organisation can grow and be able sustain itself against the increasing competition.

(787 words)


Arthur, C. (2013) ‘Why BlackBerry Failed’. The Guardian [online] 5 November. available from < http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/05/why-blackberry-failed > [15 March 2016]

Denning, S. (2011) ‘Steve Jobs: Management Innovator’. Forbes [online] 31 October. available from < http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2011/10/31/steve-jobs-management-innovator/#57a181a48934 > [13 March 2016]

Deutschman, A. (2007) Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work or in Life. New York: Harper Collins.

Finkelstein, S. (2014) ‘The Worst CEOs of 2013’. BBC [online] 3 November. available from < http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20131212-the-worst-ceos-of-2013 > [13 March 2016]

Fell, J. (2011) ‘How Steve Jobs Saved Apple’. Entrepeuner [online] 27 October. available from < http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/220604 > [14 March 2016]

Gough, V. (2009) Organisational change: Which model should I use? [online] available from < http://www.trainingzone.co.uk/lead/culture/organisational-change-which-model-should-i-use > [16 March 2016]

Kotter, J. (1995) Leading Change. Harvard Business School Press.

Kotter, J. and Cohen, D. S. (2002) The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations. Harvard Business Review Press

Kotter International (2016) The 8-Setp Process for Leading Change [online] available from < http://www.kotterinternational.com/the-8-step-process-for-leading-change/ > [15 March 2016]

Long, S (2012) ‘Change or Perish: the Future is Guaranteed to No One’. Nonprofit World [online] 30(5), 18-19. available from < http://www.ebscohost.com/ > [16 March 2016]

Melara, D. (2010) How to Lead Positive Change in Your Business [online] available from < http://www.expertbusinessadvice.com/growth-strategies/How-to-Lead-Positive-Change-in-Your-Business-4151.html > [15 March 2016]

Mullins, L.J. (2010) Management and Organisational Behaviour. 9th edn. Harlow: Pearson

O’Loughlin, D. (2013) Organisation Development for Leaders [online] available from < https://www.cscollege.gov.sg/Knowledge/Pages/Organisation-Development-for-Leaders.aspx > [15 March 2016]

Phillip, E. D. (2011) Steve Jobs interviewed just before returning to Apple [online] available from < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaJp66ArJVI > [13 March 2016]

Purrington, C. (2015) It Is Not the Strongest of the Species That Survives [online] available from < http://colinpurrington.com/2015/it-is-not-the-strongest-of-the-species-that-survives/ > [15 March 2016]

Reh, F. J. (2014) Managing Change: Managing People’s Fear [online] available from < http://management.about.com/cs/people/a/MngChng092302.htm > [14 March 2016]

Riley, J. (2012) Managing Resistance to Change [online] available from < http://www.tutor2u.net/business/strategy/change-management-resistance-barriers.html > [14 March 2016]

Rowinski, D. (2013) Thorsten Heins Ousted as BlackBerry CEO [online] available from < http://readwrite.com/2013/11/04/thorstein-heins-ousted-as-blackberry-ceo/ > [14 March 2016]

Silcoff, S., McNish, J., and Ladurantaye, S. (2013) ‘Inside the Fall of Blackberry: How The Smartphone Inventor Failed To Adapt’. The Globe and Mail [online] 27 September. available from < http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/the-inside-story-of-why-blackberry-is-failing/article14563602/?page=all > [14 March 2016]

Stragalas, N. (2010) ‘Improving Change Implementation’. OD Practitioner [online] 42(1), 31-38. available from < http://www.ebscohost.com/ > [15 March 2016]

Vasque, J. and To, J. (2012) Lewin’s 3-step Organizational Change Model [online] available from < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMxuJ1Q44bA > [17 March 2016]

Yarow, J. (2011) ‘Why Apple Was Dying Before Steve Jobs Returned, According To Steve Jobs’. Business Insider [online] 19 September available from < http://www.businessinsider.com/steve-jobs-in-1996-2011-9?IR=T&amp; > [17 March 2016].


12 thoughts on “Leadership and Change

      1. Hi David,

        Thanks for commenting and also highlighting some mistakes on my part. Thanks for the information as well. Will make some correction as soon as possible.


  1. Hi Law

    Referring to you last paragraph:
    “Leaders must also be aware that the change may not always work like what work in one place may not work in another.”

    What happens if the organisation executed a change but midway, the change was deemed a failure due to high resistance. What could the top management have done to reduce the resistance?


    1. Hi Wong,

      Based on my own opinion, change is not as easy as it sound and there are times that the change itself may fail as well. Sometimes the change can be good and bad at the same time. In order for a change to be initiated, the employees themselves must be acceptable to the change as well. However, if the change does not happen for the better of the organisation, the organisation may face difficulties in the future and may even cease to exist.

      Here are a few things on how to manage those resisted to change.
      1. Create a trusting, employee-oriented, supportive work environment prior to the change.
      2. Help the employees identify what’s in it for them to make the change.
      3. Listen deeply and empathetically to the employees on their disagreement to change.
      4. Communicate the change so it may influence other on the importance of change
      5. Create feedback and improvement loop for the change.


  2. Dear Law,
    Good write up and very informative.
    Among all the change organization around globe which do you think did a good job on its change management in term of work environment and result proven.
    and it is suitable to adopt the said Lewin’s model in Malaysia?


    1. Hi Suren,

      Thanks for commenting.

      We can see that many companies in the world had implement changes to their organisation in order to keep up with the current market and increasing competition. In the past Apple was at the brink of dying while Microsoft dominant the market at that time. The company was able to revive thanks to the changes implemented by Steve Jobs and has become one of the leading companies in the world.

      As for Lewin’s Model, it can be used in many different companies in the world but other models like Kotter’s 8 steps model is still needed for the change to be successful.
      1. The process is an easy step-by-step model.
      2. Clear steps which can give a guidance for the process
      3. Fits well into the culture of classical hierarchies

      1. Steps can’t be skipped.
      2. The process takes a great deal of time
      3. Can lead to frustrations among employees if individual needs are not taken into consideration.


  3. Hi, Law

    you did great job.

    “Kurt Lewin’s introduction of the change management model” and “Kotter’s Eight-step process model” were able to be mentioned in your blog well. However, I want to know more about “Common reasons why change is resisted” .




    1. Hi Susumu,

      Here are a few reasons that change is resisted:

      1. People will often prefer situation that are comfortable and understandable instead of heading toward the unknown.
      2. Decisions imposed on people suddenly, with no time to get used to the idea or prepare for the consequences, are generally resisted.
      3. It can be a threat for example like when new technologies displaces old ones will cause jobs to be lost, prices to be cut, and even investments to be wiped out.
      4. Change can sometimes mean more work.
      5. It may cause ripple effects that disrupt other departments or important customers.


  4. Hi Law!

    Great read, I enjoyed reading it.

    I have one question though, since you take the late Steve Jobs as an example in changing Apple on his return. Do you personally think that Apple have changed after he left? If so, is it for the good or bad?


    1. Hi Oliver,

      To what I have learned, changes will happen when it needs to and that includes Apple as well. Changes may happen could be due to needing to keep up with increasing competition, new technologies and many more which may benefit the company. However, changes can be both good thing or bad thing to the organisation depending how the leader manage the change.


      1. Hi Law!

        Thanks for clarifying this. I agree with you, in today’s world it would be impossible not to make changes in your organization given the how fast advancement of technology is.


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