Week 7: Why are all five components of leadership necessary for success in leading through change?

One of the interesting aspects of this essential question that the main idea is not change theory, but leadership.  One book I had a chance to read a few years ago was Our Iceberg is Melting, by John Kotter. It is a story about a penguin that realizes their home is going to be destroyed, and he feels they need to take action to survive this disaster.  It is a metaphor, of course, of the 8-step process of successful change. (Kotter, 2005)

  • Create a sense of urgency.
  • Pull together the guiding team.
  • Develop the change vision and strategy.
  • Communicate for understanding and buy in.
  • Empower others to act.
  • Produce short term wins.
  • Don’t let up.
  • Create a new culture.

It is a great short story and read for those that want to understand change theory.  Before reading this book, I took for granted what it might take to make significant changes, especially in education.  The book isn’t geared towards making changes in education, but for any industry that wants to make significant changes, but it brings to light a process in order for change to be successful.

Although Fullan wrote Leading in a Culture of Change in 2001, he also wrote several other papers about it.  In 2006, he wrote a great article called Change Theory: a force for school improvement, that describes some flaws in some change theory ideas that have surfaced right before the article was written, such as “standards-based district-wide reform initiatives, professional learning communities, and qualifications frameworks that focus on the development and retention of quality leaders.” (Fullan, 2006)  They had good intentions, but the execution of these changes were at fault.  Fullan describes seven premises for change to be effective in the context of education.

  • Premise 1: A focus on motivation
  • Premise 2: Capacity building (raise the bar, close the gap), with a focus on results
  • Premise 3: Learning in context (teachers engage in continuous learning about their practice that actually work, observing and being observed – even by other schools)
  • Premise 4: Changing context (change the larger context)
  • Premise 5: A bias for reflective action (people learn best through doing, reflection, inquiry, evidence, more doing, and so on)
  • Premise 6: Tri-level engagement (school/community, district, state)
  • Premise 7: Persistence and flexibility in staying the course (change takes time)

I see these some of these elements in his Leading in a Culture of Change book.  Lastly, Fullan wrote another text called The Six Secrets of Change in 2008.  In it he describes in detail about the following “secrets”: Love your employees. Connect peers with purpose. Capacity building prevails. Learning is the work. Transparency rules. Systems learn.

Again, Fullan’s idea of change wasn’t specific to education, but to any industry that feels change should happen.  I think after reading this collection of texts, and articles, it’s difficult pinpoint some “necessary” components for successful change, but leadership is one element in the process that will make change run more smoothly, but not the sole component of change.  There are other participants in this process that, in my opinion, are far more important to have successful change occur.  You could have the best leader for change, but unless you have the masses’ endorsement and support, you will lead an army of one.

Another process that I have learned, and have come to believe in, is the levels of support for any new initiatives.(not my idea, but a former professor)  The visual is like this.  If you support fully a new idea, your hand will raise with all fingers pointing up.  If you partially support a new idea, you raise your hand with three fingers up (for example), but you don’t like certain aspects.  If you don’t feel like giving any support to the new idea, your arm is raised with fist clenched, and you will fight to make sure it is not supported.  People can have many levels of support for new things, but there will never be full support, or no support.  The goal is to be able to compromise and come up with a solution that will have no one with a clenched fist!  This is probably the one aspect of leadership that leaders should be confident in performing no matter what the issues.


Fullan, Michael. (2001). Leading in a Culture of Change. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. [PDF]. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED467449.pdf

Fullan, Michael. (2008). The Six Secrets of Change. John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Fullan, Michael. (2006). Change Theory: a force for school improvement. Centre for Strategic Education, Seminar Series Paper No. 157, November 2006. Retrieved from http://michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/13396072630.pdf

Kotter, John; Rathgeber, Holger. (2005). Our Iceberg is Melting. 1st St. Martin Press Ed.


3 thoughts on “Week 7: Why are all five components of leadership necessary for success in leading through change?

  1. I was nodding my head reading your statement, “You could have the best leader for change, but unless you have the masses’ endorsement and support, you will lead an army of one.” There is always some level of resistance to change but without buy-in from employees, it makes it almost impossible to implement any changes. I will also read your reference later from Fullan, Change Theory: a force for school improvement. Leadership can have the best intentions but they also need to be skilled at using motivation, having clear goals, reflecting on the process, and engaging their community. I also liked your visual process at the end. You are right, the goal is compromise from everyone, and hopefully no one sitting with clenched fists.


  2. I like how you point out that you have to have others support. “You could have the best leader for change, but unless you have the masses’ endorsement and support, you will lead an army of one.” We have to build relationships to get others to back us up. This is what so many said through Twitter or their blogs. I remember reading some of a book a last summer called crucial conversations. This book gives suggestions for having tough conversations with others. I think this is a skill that relatively few people just have but many could acquire it. Your post just made me think about how we can get the support of others. How can we win them over? I thought back to crucial conversations because it really did give some great advice on how to make others feel heard and to help them hear what you have to say as well.


  3. I feel that the major flaw that districts have in trying to create change is in the implementation of change. how are we supposed to have buy in when they are making us buy it without asking us how we feel about it? Do we as the ones that have to implement the change agree with the moral purpose? Our district continues to fail forward with this approach, and it makes many of the employees feel that it will just be the new flavor of the month and will disappear soon enough. No buy in from anyone that tries to make a difference face to face with students.


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