The Leader's Change Handbook: An Essential Guide to Setting Direction and Taking Action / Edition 1

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A Stunning Achievement in Change ManagementIn October of 1997, the nation?s top business theorists and practitioners met at a conference cosponsored by USC?s Leadership Institute and the Center for Effective Organizations
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This important book provides both state-of-the-art help to managers on the pragmatics of leading change, as well as a guide to researchers as to what we know and do not know on leading change. The book will be an important reference and guide for managers, students, and professors as they work and research these crucial issues." (Mike Tushman, Phillip Hettleman Professor of Management, Columbia University Graduate School of Business)

"Full of useful ideas about how to lead organization transformations. This book can make it happen!" (Richard F. Teerlink, chairman, Harley-Davidson, Inc)

"As a practitioner I look for books that make sense, that have a theory base that is innovative and has an applications orientation that helps me contribute to my organization. This compilation richly and clearly provides both." (Patrick Canavan, senior vice president and director, Global Leadership and Organizational Development, Motorola)

"A must-read for agents of change! This book leads you through a realistic course for approaching and accomplishing significant organizational change. It provides outstanding examples of companies whose leaders have successfully established focused visions, environments of trust, and embraced their people as the most important resource. The Leader's Change Handbook will become a valued guide for leaders of the 21st century." (Ross H. Roberts, vice president, general manager, Ford Division, Ford Motor Company)

Intended for executives, managers, and consultants, this volume presents an array of perspectives on the theme of leadership and organizational change, written by some of today's best known, and mostly university-affiliated, thinkers in the field. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787943516
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/26/1998
  • Series: Business and Management Series
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Jay A. Conger, an internationally known author, speaker, and educator, is executive director of the Leadership Institute and a professor of business administration at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. Business Week has recognized Conger as the nation's best professor of executive leadership.

Gretchen M. Spreitzer is an assistant professor of business administration at the University of Southern California. She is a recognized expert on empowerment and leadership.

Edward E. Lawler is a professor of business administration at the University of Southern California and founder and director of the Center for Effective Organizations. He was named by Business Week as one of the country's leading management experts.

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Read an Excerpt


In our work with companies in many industries, it is clear that leadership talent is scarce. But in the face of intense competition and a global economic scene that is far from stable, the need for leadership has never been greater. As a result, businesses have turned their attention to leadership development in a big way.

Many companies know they do not have the depth of leadership talent needed to excel in an increasingly competitive and global economy. This has spurred them into action-so much so that the leadership development field today is a billion-dollar business. But are they taking the right action? For example, by now most corporations have sponsored leadership programs for their managers, have had guest speakers on the subject, or have sent executives off to university courses on the subject. Even internal measures such as performance appraisals and 360-degree assessment tools now incorporate leadership in their feedback to managers. Books and videos on leadership can be found on the shelves of most executives, but do they make a difference? Do they produce more and better leaders? Despite the attention and money spent, surprisingly few attempts have been made to answer these important questions. It appears that most companies simply assume that such investments produce results. Yet one has to wonder whether a week-long educational program is enough to produce new mind-sets among a company's managers. Or whether a one-time, two-hour feedback session with a manager on his or her leadership competences is enough to induce changed behavior. The skeptic might ask whether the investment is like a night out at a fine restaurant: pleasurable, but most nights we still eat at home.

For this book, we decided to look further. We take a hard look at whether the corporate world's attempts to develop leadership talent through educational initiatives are paying off. The book comes at an important time for the field of leadership education and development. We say this not because of the phenomenal sums invested in them, but because those investments seem to parallel the remarkable improvements in educational interventions for leadership development. Only a decade ago, for example, leadership training for managers often consisted of a one- to four-week program at a university or training organization. Joining with participants from other companies, an individual would receive lectures on decision making, participation, setting goals, and so forth. There would be general case studies and simple experiential exercises to ground course concepts and theories. In sharp contrast, today's programs are far more customized to a company's immediate needs and the issues it faces. Just as important, education is no longer focused only on the individual learner but increasingly on shaping the worldviews and behaviors of cohorts of managers and, in the process, transforming even entire organizations. Learning methods are more dynamic; they allow learners to address and learn from real challenges and help them resolve real issues. Given a decade of transformation in leadership education, we thought it time to explore the impact of this new generation of interventions-interventions that promise greater impact on both individuals and the organization.

For our research, we sought out companies that innovate and experiment. Most have made significant investments in developing leadership talent. We also looked at failed experiments; not surprisingly, they taught us as much as did the successful ones. We have learned from our multiple-year study and have distilled our research into the findings and guidelines described in this book. In essence, Building Leaders has two primary objectives. The first is to provide an in-depth assessment of the current state of leadership development in corporate America. We focus solely on what firms are doing in-company to strengthen and expand their leadership capabilities. Also, we aim to provide a blueprint of how organizations can more effectively build leadership talent using a broad array of approaches. Based on research we conducted at more than a dozen organizations, we identify practices that can improve a firm's success in developing leadership talent at all levels. We also identify common pitfalls to guard against. Detailed case studies accompany our prescriptions and illustrate the mechanics of the better-designed programs.

Finally, we look at the future of leadership to determine what new behaviors and perspectives will be needed to lead in the upcoming century. One of our concerns is that many organizations teach and develop leadership skills that may be outdated by the time younger generations reach the senior ranks. It seems wasteful to train yesterday's skills to tomorrow's leaders. We hope our insights into future leadership competencies will get people thinking more about new directions and about shifting their focus to developing these skills today.

We are also concerned that most organizations treat leadership development casually-in contrast to organizations that truly understand the complexity of building leadership talent, such as the military. Beyond a few educational programs and value statements proclaiming the importance of leadership, we see only a handful of companies attempting deeper, more concerted efforts. Our hope is that this book will not only provide models of what is possible but, more importantly, remind us all that leadership is developed daily through job opportunities, bosses, educational experiences, company cultures, and rewards. As such, to truly develop leaders, many organizations require a change of mind that in the end produces company cultures that value and reward leadership rather than simply "minding the store."

Overview of the Contents

We start in Chapter One by exploring how our paradigms of leadership have undergone radical changes over the last three decades. In essence, our notions have moved from relatively simplistic concepts of leadership to richer theories about how leaders orchestrate change within their organizations. At the same time, the world of executive and management education has been undergoing an equally radical shift in learning approaches and program designs. As a result, educational interventions for leadership development have themselves become far more sophisticated and therefore influential. In contrast, just a decade ago it was assumed that managers best learned leadership on the job. Today we believe this to be only partially true. Depending on how we design our interventions, educational initiatives can play a far greater role in leadership development than imagined before.

With this optimistic backdrop, we begin our excursion into the numerous initiatives we examined. In essence, we found in our research that there are three principal approaches to leadership education: individual skill development, socialization of corporate leadership values and visions, and strategic interventions that promote dialogue and the implementation of a new collective vision. Each approach is explored in the chapters that follow, with an emphasis on best practices as well as common problems that we found across the programs in each category.

In Chapter Two and in the case study presented in Chapter Three, we turn our attention to the most popular of the three approaches to date: individual preparation and skill development. Their objective is to assist individual managers in learning essential ideas about leadership, exploring new skills, and receiving feedback on their own capabilities. Throughout the chapter, we examine important design and process issues such as the value of 360-degree feedback and competency models, how participants should be selected, the strengths and weaknesses of popular learning methods, and the importance of after-program support systems. In our research, we found a number of important shortcomings common to many of these approaches, and we describe for readers common problems that could derail even the best of programs.

Chapter Four and the case studies in Chapter Five focus on educational initiatives that seek to socialize the vision, values, and mission of an organization into its management ranks. Leadership involves learning that leaders must embody and role-model certain values and behaviors and actively translate the overall corporate vision into local visions for their own units. Again, we looked across successful company programs to identify the shared design elements that make these programs more effective than most. For example, we found that better programs perform an organizational needs assessment beforehand, use practicing leaders to provide instruction, design formats around participant exchange, and put in place support systems throughout the organization. Still, we found a number of problems confronting these programs. For example, many face hidden challenges in using company leaders as instructors. Some reinforce interpersonal values but overlook crucial strategic or marketplace competencies that leaders must develop that, in turn, may lead the company to suffer strategic mistakes. In several cases, operating units feel they have little ownership of programs and as a result fail to support them in meaningful ways. We explore these challenges in depth and describe how organizations can overcome them.

Chapter Six and the case study in Chapter Seven examine the use of leadership programs designed to facilitate strategic interventions. Given an increasingly more competitive and rapidly changing world, these have steadily grown in popularity. Typical designs employ action learning, task forces, and facilitated group discussions to identify organizational initiatives that can accelerate major strategic changes within the firm. In essence, company managers work together to understand a common vision and, through challenging assignments, learn to lead the implementation of that vision. Such learning activities, in turn, advance the organization's new strategic imperatives. Using executive learning cohorts, cascading initiatives, active feedback mechanisms, and collective dialogue forums for these are among the more pow- erful practices we discovered. But they are also complicated and demanding, so we identify common problems that can easily undermine their long-term impact and suggest how to minimize them.

In Chapter Eight, we turn our attention to a popular educational format called action learning. It falls outside of our typology of the three approaches because it is a learning method rather than a design outcome such as socializing a company vision into the ranks of junior leaders. Today, entire leadership programs may be built around action learning. As such, any of the three approaches described in Chapters Two through Seven may use action learning. We single this method out because of its widespread use in today's leadership development efforts. In spite of its popularity-or perhaps because of it-action learning programs have failed to receive sufficient scrutiny. Given the zeal with which these programs have been adopted, we felt it was important to examine this learning method's objectives and discuss not only its pluses but also its minuses. Athough they have great potential for developing leadership skills, common design problems can significantly lessen their impact. We explore why many action learning programs do not deliver on their promise of substantial and sustainable learning and suggest ways to improve them.

In our closing chapter, we turn our attention to the future. We want to give readers a sense of where we think the future of leadership is headed. In this case, we direct our discussion not so much in terms of education but toward the characteristics that will be demanded in the next generation of leaders. It is our strong belief that tomorrow's attributes are what we must begin to train and develop today. Our observation, however, is that too many companies teach yesterday's leadership skills to tomorrow's leaders. We hope this book will convince them to teach tomorrow's skills today.


Several individuals played an important role in the research behind this book. We would particularly like to thank Evan Bouffides for his help. Evan was Jay Conger's research assistant for a portion of this project. He conducted the interview research on the National Australia Bank and did a superb job of assessing National's program efforts for us. As well, Chris Farkas conducted a computer-based analysis of that data for us. Chris coded and analyzed innumerable transcripts and provided us with his thoughts on key findings. We are grateful to both of these individuals. Jay Conger has also been fortunate to work with a faculty colleague at the University of Southern California, Katherine Xin, and one of his doctoral students, Kimberly Jaussi, on several projects exploring the world of executive education. Their work shaped some of the ideas and insights in this book. A former colleague of Beth's at RAND, Matthew Lewis, has long written on the training applications of technology. Matt lent us his expertise on computer assisted instruction, management flight simulators, and microworlds to help us envision how technology will likely play a greater role in future leadership development efforts. We also thank the inspiring men and women who participated in the 1997 Future Leader Development of Army Noncommissioned Officers Workshop. For the Noncommissioned Officers' Corps, leadership development is more than an initiative or program; it is a way of life. We thank the Corps for the honor and integrity it brings to the field and for its ongoing commitment to self-reflection, critical evaluation, and improvement. Beth would like to thank her colleagues at both RAND and BoozáAllen & Hamilton for allowing her time to write the book. Jay's wife Nadege deserves a special thanks. She has always been available for comments on the text and, most importantly, for support in the face of the trials and tribulations of writing a book. Beth would also like to thank her parents, Judy and Glenn, who have been an unwavering source of strength and perspective and instrumental to her own development.

Los Angeles, California
April 1999


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Table of Contents

A Success Story: The Case of Lucent Technologies.
Creating the Individualized Corporation: The Path to Self-Renewal at General Electric.
Mobilizing Adaptive Work: Beyond Visionary Leadership.
Leading Change: The Eight Steps to Transformation.
Breaking Away: Executive Leadership of Corporate Spinoffs.
Leading Learning and Learning to Lead: An Action Learning Approach to Developing Organizational Fitness.
Advanced Change Theory: Culture Change at Whirlpool Coorporation.
Leading from a Different Place: Applying Complexity Theory to Tap Potential.
Leading Corporate Transformation: Are You Up to the Task?
Top Management Viewed from Below: A Learning Perspective on Transformation.
The Role and Limits of Change Leadership.
Leadership and Collaboration.
Take-Away Lessons: What We Know and Where We Need to Go.
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