While there is wide consensus that a leader’s vision is key for motivating team members to support organizational change, it remains far from clear what characterizes an effective vision of change. Research finds followers often resist change because it threatens their sense of organizational identity. In other words, ‘if we do things differently, we won’t be the same organization I know and love.’ Change brings uncertainty and uncertainty often brings fear and fear brings resistance to change–a vicious and unproductive circle.
Interestingly, research also finds that leaders who communicate visions of change can challenge this resistance by assuring followers that the heart of the organizational identity will remain unchanged (Venus, Stam, & van Knippenberg,2019). Put another way, a leader’s vision of change can also be a vision of continuity. The leader makes the case that we are an organization that has and always will, evolve and change. Change is in our DNA. Change has and will make us great.
A leader’s communication of a vision of change and continuity—a message of a future image of the collective to persuade others to contribute to that change—has been identified as a key method of motivating followers toward change. Effective visions of change and continuity emphasize the deficiency of the status quo while providing a different and idealized alternative. Such visionary messages clarify the need for change, provide a sense of challenge, highlight potential opportunities, and inspire team members to undertake change.
Venus, M., Stam, D., & van Knippenberg, D. (2019). Visions of Change as Visions of Continuity. Academy of Management Journal, 62(3), 667–690.