Leadership in Change: New Competencies for Leaders Required

MBS Leadership in Change
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The working world is undergoing relentless change, with industries consolidating in a global environment. These processes require professional change management. This represents a direct challenge for leaders, as they have to ask themselves questions like: What shall I do as a leader? How do I treat existing team members, and how will I treat potential and new ones? What are the leadership competencies that are expected from me?

Mastering Unwanted Changes

Let me try a parable: A boat is entering rough sea. Within seconds, the captain must master (his own) fears and redirect the focus to the future. The crew in its previously known form has ceased to exist: 50% of the crew members are new, from a newly acquired boat. The captain could now even be forced to ignore the members of his former team, because otherwise, integrating the new members will become impossible. Long-term employee relationships also will have to be ignored and/or used to invite new staff to setting up a new culture.

Backing up the Change

In change management, leadership is extremely important: By and with the team members, a new team culture must be developed; the process must be supported by communication and competencies and in it, the leader as a role model is the most important component of the team. The leader defines and enforces the principal culture until it is firmly established. In addition, new communication paths must be tailored to the team’s needs. In the end, each team member will get a modified competence profile, with regard to technical as well as to soft skills.

MBS Leadership in Change

Implementing Competence Profiles

To help the team leader picking up speed when setting up the team, he/she – being in the leadership role – must already possess the necessary soft skills, refresh them or – if required – undergo training to acquire them. This applies, in particular, to virtual teams.

One vital element for leadership in a healthy team is trust. Such trust has to grow towards the superior or team leader at first, and then among the individual team members.

Generating Trust

Building trust as the most important leadership task of teams undergoing integration will succeed when these rules are observed:

1) Setting up clear rules, roles, responsibilities and communication routines (e.g. regular weekly meetings); obtaining the team’s consent for these measures

2) Explaining goals and advertise support for these goals

3) Doing a kick-off where all team members are physically present – in a neutral place and within the first three months

4) Entering a one-on-one dialogue with each team member to get an idea of his or her expectations, opportunities and fears

5) Outlining the specific competencies of each individual team member, and making them transparent to the other members

Strengthening Leadership

It is crucial that the leader himself/herself is not entangled in the situation and can process it in a professional manner.

The most important leadership skills are defined in the following:

In addition to enhancing one’s own personality, a workstyle characterized by neutrality and the ability to change perspective are decisive.

Competence/Skill Methods for Enhancing the Competence/Skill
Own sufficient resilience Obtaining support from a mentor, supervisor, sparring partner or certified mediator
Empathy Ability to change perspective, supported by certified training in Business Coaching
Cultural awareness Intercultural training and sensitization by means of a rotation scheme
Stress management Training in stress management
Work to find a clear vision and objective Workshop: Outlining a team vision and mission in accordance with the company goals
Setting up a new culture Setting up an internal employer branding
Virtual leadership Training in virtual communication and team management
Project management Certification by GPM (German Project Management Association) or PMI training

Generating change awareness

In addition to self-reflexion, cultural sensitization – supplemented by empathy – is imperative. This can be achieved and enhanced by certified coaching and leadership trainings. An internal or external sparring partner can often help to change perspective. It could also be useful to hire an external coach who accompanies and coaches the team during the first months of the change.

As a logical consequence, the required leadership competence profile should be in place before case X of a merger or acquisition happens. In other words: Now is the time to confront the issue as to how to manage teams in these difficult times.

Considering the fact that the number of company mergers and acquisitions will multiply, the situation will hardly become easier in the future. Not only is it indispensable to get the captain’s license for the “boat”, it is also crucial to make sure that suitable and talented staff will not sign in on another boat.


Excerpt from:

Albrecht, A. (2016b), Leadership in Change: Neue Kompetenzen für Führungskräfte gefordert, HR Performance 4/16, 100, DATAKONTEXT www.hrperformance-online.de/hrp128

MBS Prof. Dr. Arnd Albrecht
About Prof. Dr. Arnd Albrecht 29 Articles
Since 2010, Prof. Dr. Arndt Albrecht has been a professor for Human Resource Management and International Management at MBS. In addition, he is the Academic Program Director of the Bachelor International Business program. Prof. Dr. Albrecht is involved in research and consulting activities at MBS as well as in his consulting company where he supports industry projects in terms of HRM, leadership and change management. After completing his doctorate, he worked as an international senior manager in the pharmaceutical industry and as a strategic consultant for SMEs and corporations. Prof. Dr. Albrecht is a certified business coach and holds an MBA from Henley Management College.