Many of the change leadership models represent the ways for an organization to make the most painless transition, yet they take different factors into their focus. Lewin’s theory is one of the oldest, and it has only three steps: unfreeze, change, and refreeze an organization to implement change (Hughes, 2016). Meanwhile, Kotter’s eight steps aim to promote acceptance through employees’ increased belief in the necessity of change (Gigliotti et al., 2018). His theory is considered to be both innovative and authentic to Lewin’s principles (Cummings, Bridgman, and Brown, 2015). This technique explains that many obstacles can arise from a company’s past and acknowledges the fact that it must be cleansed (Burnes, Hughes, and By, 2016). Burns provides a different approach to leadership and shifts the attention to followers, as his leadership theory focuses on the mutual nature of an organization (Burnes, Hughes, and By, 2016). Prosci’s ADKAR theory is based on the five primary goals that are needed for an organization or an individual to achieve the desired change: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement (Wong et al., 2019). These techniques differ significantly in their ways of achieving the same goal.
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Comparison of the Models
There are different points through which these techniques link organizational change, leaders, and employees. Most of the theories use stages to mark the progress towards the intended change and to split the vision into smaller, more trackable goals (Dumas and Beinecke, 2018). However, unlike some other theorists, Kotter and Lewin acknowledge that employees may be resistant to change and cause any attempt to implement it to fail (Burnes and Bargal, 2017; Kotter, 2011, 1:05). By, Hughes, and Ford (2016, p. 11) argue that such an approach is outdated, as there are issues when “employees being depicted as resistors, ethics, power and politics being underplayed,” and a leader’s role is overemphasized. Meanwhile, other techniques seek to establish synergy between a leader and employees.
These significant differences in perceived obstacles and goals on the way to the desired result resulted in numerous attempts to combine them or repurpose their steps (Burnes, Hughes, and By, 2016). The drawbacks of these techniques are often considered to be their outdated views on employees, sustainability of change, and objectives outside of financial ones (Burnes, Hughes, and By, 2016). Not only do these theories provide different steps in achieving change, but they also affect the outcome.
Recommendations for Leaders
There is no standardized practice that would allow a leader to achieve the intended goal. Instead, these models represent the possible ways through which an organization can make its employees embrace and work towards it. However, Kotter’s view on change provides the most in-depth analysis of the change process. Kotter provides a vital observation regarding the efficiency of change and states that people change behavior through feelings more often than through logic and analysis (Kotter, cited in Schedlitzki and Edwards, 2018). Therefore, appealing to emotions can provide a more efficient impact on change acceptance.
In conclusion, these models are not entirely universal, and their application depends on a situation and an organization. These models are not suitable for any organization and rely on a company’s size and the intended change. Moreover, the most efficient model must be fit for a leader’s personality traits, as they affect the outcome as much as the chosen technique (Oreg and Berson, 2019). I consider it essential to pinpoint the most suitable model and use it, yet always keep in mind Kotter’s focus on employees’ feelings as a primary source of change acceptance.
Burnes, B. and Bargal, D. (2017) “Kurt Lewin: 70 Years on,” Journal of Change Management, 17(2), pp. 91–100.
Burnes, B., Hughes, M. and By, R. T. (2016) “Reimagining Organisational Change Leadership,” Leadership, 14(2), p. 174271501666218.
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By, R. T., Hughes, M. and Ford, J. (2016) “Change Leadership: Oxymoron and Myths,” Journal of Change Management, 16(1), pp. 8–17.
Cummings, S., Bridgman, T. and Brown, K. G. (2015) “Unfreezing Change as Three steps: Rethinking Kurt Lewin’s Legacy for Change Management,” Human Relations, 69(1), pp. 33–60.
Dumas, C. and Beinecke, R. H. (2018) “Change leadership in the 21st century,” Journal of Organizational Change Management, 31(4), pp. 867–876.
Gigliotti, R. et al. (2018) “The Role of Perceived Organizational Support in Individual Change Readiness,” Journal of Change Management, 19(2), pp. 86–100.
Hughes, M. (2016) “Leading changes: Why transformation explanations fail,” Leadership, 12(4), pp. 449–469.
Kotter, J. (2011) “John Kotter – Resistance to Change,” YouTube. Web.
Oreg, S. and Berson, Y. (2019) “Leaders’ Impact on Organizational Change: Bridging Theoretical and Methodological Chasms,” Academy of Management Annals, 13(1), pp. 272–307.
Schedlitzki, D. and Edwards, G. (2018) Studying leadership: traditional and critical approaches. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Wong, Q. et al. (2019) “Leading change with ADKAR,” Nursing Management (Springhouse), 50(4), pp. 28–35.