January 16, 2018


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Leadership Characteristics as Key Success Factor For Change

Leadership Characteristics – The 5 Practices of Excellent Leadership

By Stephen Warrilow Change Management

Leadership characteristics are extremely relevant as a key success factor in change management. They have been extensively researched by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. Their groundbreaking studies, commenced in 1983 with the driver to identify the characteristics of good leadership.

They devised a leadership characteristics survey consisting of thirty-eight open-ended questions designed to capture “Personal Best” stories of peak leadership experience.

The leadership characteristics research was conducted over 15 years with 75,000 people, on a worldwide basis and included middle and senior level managers in private and public sector organisations, community leaders, student leaders, church leaders, government leaders, and hundreds of others in non-managerial positions.

The last study was conducted in 2002 and the prioritized list of leadership characteristics is as follows:

1. Honest 88% Ghandi
2. Forward-Looking 71%
3. Competent 65%
4. Inspiring 66%
5. Intelligent 35%
6. Fair-minded 47%
7. Broad-minded 40%
8. Supportive 42%
9. Straightforward 34%
10. Dependable 33%
11. Co-operative 24%
12. Determined 20%
13. Imaginative 23%
14. Ambitious 17%
15. Courageous 28%
16. Caring 21%
17. Mature 20%
18. Loyalty 14%
19. Self-Controlled 8%
20. Independent 6%

It is interesting to note that these figures have remained largely consistent over the full 15 years of research. The results of this research and subsequent analysis of leadership characteristics has led them to the defining of the 5 practices of excellent leadership and which are crucial in change management.

In summary they found that despite differences in the circumstances and details of people’s individual stories, their “personal-best” leadership experiences revealed recurring and similar patterns of behaviour in their descriptions of the characteristics of good leadership. Leadership showing the way

1.        Showing the Way

Leaders define and establish principles about the way people should be treated and the way goals should be pursued. Leaders set the benchmark by creating standards of excellence and then demonstrate these standards in their own behaviour and thus establishing an example for others to follow.  They create the environment in which people can succeed.

2.        Creating a Shared Vision

Leaders have a clear and passionately held vision of what the changed organisation can become. They have the skills and energy to enthuse and inspire people to share that vision, and get excited about the future possibilities. Challenging the way things are

3.        Challenging the Way Things Are

Leaders are challenging and seek out opportunities to challenge and change the status quo. They seek innovation and improvement in the organisation, are prepared to experiment, to take risks and to accept the inevitable failures as part of the learning experience.

4.        Empowering and Encouraging People to Act

Leaders are enablers and empower people by involving them and believing in them. They engender mutual respect and trust and in so doing motivate their people to extraordinary effort and achievement.

5.        Addressing the Emotional Dimension

Leaders know that extraordinary achievement in an organisation is very hard work. They also know that emotional dimension is extremely important. So they regularly acknowledge their people’s achievements and celebrate team and individual accomplishments, and is so doing they make their people feel good about themselves. Leaders empower and encourage toward achievement

All of these are qualities and practises that make up the leadership characteristics for successful change management initiatives.

About the author:Stephen Warrilow, based in Bristol, England, works with companies across the UK providing specialist support to directors delivery significant change initiatives. Stephen has 25 years cross sector experience with 100+ companies in mid range corporate, larger SME and corporate environments. Take advantage of his 7 FREE “How to Do It” downloads that will take you through all of the key stages of “How to manage change” – and show you how to manage change successfully.

NOTE: I was fortunate to discover the work and writings of Stephen Warrilow at end of 2009. It was apparent that his extensive Change Management knowledge and experience would add value to my project management blog. It will equip readers with knowledge and skills to manage change successfully.

Enjoy the Change Management articles from Stephen Warrilow.

I trust that you will find great value and I encourage you to download Stephen’s free material to implement in your own change projects.


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