Difference Between Change Management and Change Leadership

Key Difference – Change Management vs Change Leadership

Change management and change leadership are two similar approaches to introduce a change in an organization though, there is some difference between them in approach and size of the change. The key difference between these two terms is that Change management is the application of a set of processes, mechanisms, and tools in enabling an organization to transition it from the present state to a future desired state while Change leadership is the ability to manage, lead, and enable the process of change to attain a desired future state of well-being. Change is inevitable for any organization to cope with changing environments. “Adapt or Die” is what evolution has taught humankind. Change drives any organization to a desired future state if properly approached. To instigate change, different methods are utilized in organizations. Such approaches will either fall into the category of change management or change leadership. Globalization and constant technological innovation are being cited as leading factors to drive change in business.

What is Change Management?

Change management comprises a set of processes, mechanisms, and tools that are designed to assist in an event of a change for a smooth transition. Through the application of these tools, organizations attempt to ensure that change is monitored and stays in line of control of managers. Further, with change, disruption among employees tends to happen, and tensions flow. Rebellion among the hierarchy and draining of cash are potentials scenarios. Change management ensures that this employee and cash disruption does not happen. It is a way of making a change and keeping it in control.

Change management is carried out with management groups and external consultants who have expertise in change management. Executives will work towards the change. When, change is carried out as per plan, employees will feel engaged in the change process and will work collectively to achieve the aspired state. Usually, change management is associated with small changes, and lengthy transitions if it is a bigger change.diffeernce between leadership and change management

What is Change Leadership?

Change leadership is associated with the urgency of change and larger change where aspired new vision is broad. Change leadership can be defined as the ability to manage, lead, and enable the process of change to attain a desired future state of well-being. Further, the associated people with change should be soothingly taken care of. The identifiable common attributes of change leadership are:

  • The ability to develop new approaches or think out of the box
  • Identifying better, quicker, and cheaper avenues to do things
  • Making people buy into the change and transforming them as followers of change
  • Encouraging others to value change

These leadership qualities are not common among all managers. Charismatic leaders who have high interpersonal relationship skills in leading people are often associated with change leadership. They only can drive the change and make employees accept the change. Change leaders have the ability to:

  • Correctly define areas for change
  • Manage change initiatives smoothly by anticipating, preparing, and responding effectively to roadblocks
  • Creating an open, receptive work environment
  • Getting people involved at all levels in the change initiative

Broad change involves managing complex situations where understanding of cultural and social factors is vital. Such situations require innovative approach in developing practical strategies to achieve the optimal solution for problems arising from these complex situations.

The followers of change leader are converted by the change leader to work towards the change. In change leadership, employees are empowered to translate the dream of change to reality. In change leadership, things can go out of control, unlike change management. The degree of control over change will be a factor of concern. However, the skill of change leader can ensure that the control can be regained, and change can benefit the masses.

change management vs. change leadership

What is the difference between Change Management and Change Leadership?

Definition of Change Management and Change Leadership

Change management: Change management is the application of a set of processes, mechanisms, and tools in enabling an organization to transition it from the present state to a future desired state.

Change Leadership: Change leadership is the ability to manage, lead, and enable the process of change to attain a desired future state of well-being.

Characteristics of Change Management and Change Leadership


Change Management: Change Management will facilitate the change rather than driving the change.

Change Leadership: Change leadership will be the driving force of change and empowers the change leader of full control over the transition.


Change Management: Change Management aims to make the transition a smooth and efficient one. Further, it aims to have full control over the change throughout the transition process.

Change Leadership: Change leadership has many risks involved with it, as the new vision to be achieved is broad. So, tolerating risk and moving forward is seen as a major challenge with change leadership. A leadership that can inspire others can mitigate such risks.

Scale of Change

Change Management: Change Management is associated with small changes and implementing change in series of manageable steps.

Change Leadership: Change leadership is associated with broad changes.


Change Management: Procedures, scheduled goals, and budgets are part of change management. The transition is planned well in front, before implementing the change.

Change Leadership: Change leadership is a reaction to an urgent requirement for change.


Change Management: In change management, the change is a planned action and is integrated into the status quo.

Change Leadership: With change leadership change is approached in an innovative way with new thinking to drive the change.

Human Element of Change

Change Management: People work together for transition in change management. The set of processes and planned approach make the people engaged, and motivation tools encourage people to adapt to change.

Change Leadership: In Change leadership, people follow the leader to make the change a possibility. Also, they will be empowered to achieve the change.

We have categorized the differences between change management and change leadership. As, earlier cited change management and change leadership have significant differences between them. The environment decides the approach to follow. Change management is comparatively an easier task while change leadership has much uncertainty and risk.


Image Courtesy:
“The New Deal Leadership Meeting at Microsoft” by Maryland GovPics  (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
“Change Control Board in Project Management” by Nguyen Hung Vu  (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr