Change Management and the 5 Key Change Leadership Principles.

Childhood moments are precious! And one such moment was when our family bought our first camera. It’s a ________ moment – the visual is clearly etched in the minds of the 80s generation!

This organization was one of the first in its segment to invent the digital camera. But they did not recognize the mass-market potential of this product, never released this product; instead chose to focus on high-end cameras for niche markets. They also feared cannibalizing their current product portfolio instead of paying heed to market demands. This organization was so averse to the ground realities that it took them more than a decade and tons of resources spent on research to come up with their first digital product for every-day use and it was still not a digital camera. By this time, some newer players in the market had already become a household name. So, by the time this organization launched its first digital camera in the market, the others had already carved a niche. By now you know who are we talking about? Yes – “It’s a Kodak moment!”.

So – why did such a popular legacy brand lose ground and almost get to the brink of closure? Before we answer that question, let’s look at another case.

The Apple Case study!

Apple under Steve Jobs came back from the brink of an existential crisis – that is well-known! However, the Jobs’ era belonged singularly to his style of leadership – at the stage that Apple was when Jobs came back in, maybe that was the need of the hour!

Many analysts had doubts about whether Tim Cook as the successor to Jobs could actually fit into his shoes. Honestly, he did not need to. The moment he took charge, his first message was “At Apple, nothing will change!” What he meant was there will be no change in strategy. In fact, the change will be in the way Apple creates value for its customers and Cook brought in a diversely opposite collaborative leadership style. For the employees, this was a welcome change. Like an Apple executive at the time stated that working with Tim actually makes you a better human being.

  • With superior products coming of it’s stable periodically and innovation being the key to its product strategy, what’s helping Apple succeed. What are the Change Management principles that great companies like Apple practice for success in a cut-throat competitive electronics and technology market?
  • What then helps organizations survive and thrive in a constantly changing world – analysts call it the VUCA world, isn’t it?
  • Well – the answer lies somewhere in the above diagonally opposite case studies of two organizations!
  • Did they understand the evolving future scenarios well?
  • If not, were they reading the present market realities?
  • Were they responding to the same quickly and effectively?
  • Were they able to switch to the new normal in the shortest possible time?
  • Was leadership within the organization inspired and able to inspire their people to the refined vision?
  • Was leadership agile and dynamic at the same time to attune to the new realities both within and without?

And many such questions…

If the majority of the answers to the above are in the affirmative, the possibility of the organization thriving and surviving despite the change is very high.

Change management, therefore, becomes vital for the success of organizations, communities, and people in the new normal. The ones who are able to build a change management plan and strategy would go on to set change leadership benchmarks within their sectors aka Apple, Netflix, and many such.

Moreover, at an individual level, adapting and evolving to change therefore becomes the key driver of success in the New Normal.

In this article, we will attempt to draw a parallel between the characteristics of thriving organizations and how the same could be equally relevant for individuals to be successful despite the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world that we exist in.

We will look at a newer simpler model of Change Management. Also, review and internalize some Change Management principles vital for survival and success today. 

An analogy for Change Management – My plant/creeper

Analogy for Change Management

Talking about change management and change leadership, have you ever seen how the vine has stood the test of time? I have one at my home for the last few years. Despite changing weather, seasons, situations, how does it continue to survive, and more importantly, growth is what amazes me.

My backyard vine has been my constant source of inspiration when it comes to evolving and adapting. If you look at the picture closely, you would notice the various elements that are key to survival and growth in a changing environment.

Let’s learn some change management principles drawing parallels between this perennial vine and its nurturer -


The vine teaches us persistence, focus, patience, grit, and resilience. Despite the odds, one of the reasons this vine has survived the test of time is some of these qualities it personifies (literally!). On the flip-side, it is also the nurturer who observes the vine closely and constantly. When I go off on holidays for a few days, the vine finds its own natural survival instincts. There have been instances when by the time we are back, most parts of the plant would have started rotting. With some care in the ensuing days, it bounces back.

  • Change Leadership Principle 1 – Never give up, survival is natural!


What the vine needs in order to grow is some natural sunlight, periodic watering, and manure to enhance growth. As a nurturer, my role is to ensure this is provided for, and more importantly, the plant is looked after and cared for. Caring results in a sense of belonging and enhances growth to true potential. It is equally important to know when should I intervene and protect the vine and when should I leave it to its natural survival instincts.

  • Change Leadership Principle 2 – Observe and nurture as true potential unveils!


Having observed the vine grow or wither from very close quarters has made me aware that harsh sun rays, excess water, and the location of the plant are all important factors enabling its growth. 

As leaders, it is equally important to create an environment and ecosystem where creativity, cohesiveness, and empowerment breeds. As a leader, do I know what are my teams expecting, what drives them? Are the various channels of communication in the organization open and are messages flowing seamlessly – in all desired directions? Am I building a leadership pipeline?

  • Change Leadership Principle 3 -Enable the new world you want others to see!


Wherever I move the vine plant, its tendency is to grow towards the sunlight. If I need to grow it taller and faster, I need to constantly nudge it towards the sunlight.

As leaders, we need to constantly re-iterate the vision and mission that we are on. The gaze is always upwards as growth is the very nature of humans and living beings. The purpose of organizations is to keep growing at any cost. Have we answered the “Why Change” question? Is my vision aligned with this? In that case, isn’t that a leader's responsibility to constantly be in search of actions that can enhance growth and events that may impede growth? As a leader, am I not responsible to inspire my people about the organizational vision and mission constantly?

When we meditate, we focus on the natural breathing process. Our subconscious mind constantly keeps all the organs functioning even when we are in a slumber. As leaders, are we not responsible therefore to constantly re-kindle the organizational values?

Gaze and a single-minded focus on the wider purpose are what enable organizations to wade through tough situations, isn’t it?

  • Change Leadership Principle 4 – Focus on the big picture and inspire others to be!


Cross-pollination was a term I learned in my science class back at primary school. However, my vine taught me what it actually means. Having had a busy few weeks at work, I could not observe my vine and its surroundings carefully. During my gardening hour one day, I was pleasantly surprised to see a new sprout near my vine plant. To remind you, the vine did not need any support externally except maybe the wind. On its own will, it had planted a new seed and was on its way to multiply its breed.

As leaders, can we get our teams to multiply the behaviors needed for the success of a change management initiative? As a leader, should I not be walking the talk – always? What are some ways and means to ensuring that the new capabilities and behaviors are lapped up by people across the organization and they multiply? Wouldn’t this enable change management to be driven more effectively? If this happens, does it not mean that people have bought into the change? Are communication and recognition the only ways to achieve this? As a leader, am I not required to practice and apply all the change leadership principles? Should I, therefore, be a Change Agent as well? How can I get people at various levels in the organization excited about the change and maybe build change advocates or change catalysts across?

  • Change Leadership Principle 5 – Ensure cross-pollination to multiply gains!

Change Leadership Model

In effect, we have evolved with a refined Change Model. The best part is this model has evolved from nature which is responsible for the evolution of all beings – living or non-living.

Let’s visualize this model in its entirety, therefore!

Change Leadership Model

On the journey of learning from my vine, we also evolved with some Change Leadership Principles. Let’s jot them down!

  • Change Leadership Principle 1 – Never give up, survival is natural!
  • Change Leadership Principle 2 – Observe and nurture as true potential unveils!
  • Change Leadership Principle 3 - Enable the new world you want others to see!
  • Change Leadership Principle 4 – Focus on the big picture and inspire others to be!
  • Change Leadership Principle 5 – Ensure cross-pollination to multiply gains!

If Change Management interests you, consider becoming a Certified Project Management Professional.

About Author
Rakesh Nair