Who is leading the change?

In a transformation process where the path is not always clear beforehand and things tend to shift along the way, confusion often arises about who is leading the change. This leads to a lack of change-leadership and possible frustration or conflict over roles. How do you ensure a clear division of roles, how do you stay in your own role and ensure that others do too?


Leaders lead and enablers enable

Transformation journeys often derail because ownership for organisational transformation is not clearly assigned. When organisational change becomes the day-to-day responsibility of every leader, it becomes more important to clearly clarify the roles of every person involved.

You can divide change leadership into two core roles. The role of change leader and the role of change enabler.

The change leader is the one who leads the change with heart and soul, providing direction, engaging in dialogue and making the decisions. This would typically be the role with the most significant ultimate responsibility for business results.

The change enabler is the one who orchestrates and coordinates the transformation process. This role is typically filled by strategy, HR, finance or IT business partners, program or project managers, change managers or consultants hired in a temporary capacity.

To be thorough, sometimes people switch role from one moment to the next. Imagine an IT director for example. He plays the change enabler role while guiding the business during the implementation of digital solutions, but he also plays the change leader role in managing his own department.



As a change leader you typically have several core responsibilities:

– You select and appoint the team leading the transformation and guide them through the planning and implementation

– You set the course through vision, inspiration, and a compelling change story

– You set the principles and the framework and take the decisions on the design of the change interventions and solutions

– You have the tough conversations and make sure people display the changed behaviour

– You coach change leaders who report to you and support them in effectively fulfilling their role


As a change enabler you typically have these responsibilities:

– You teach the team how to use change management methodologies and techniques to plan and implement transformation and innovation effectively

– You help design and implement organisational transformation solutions

– You identify obstacles, put them on the agenda and make sure action is being taken

– You coach change leaders to manage the transformation



Failed transformation journeys are mostly caused by an insufficient sense of ownership and leadership in all levels of the organisation. This is triggered by inadequate role consciousness or role misunderstandings by the important players in the transformation journey.

By having those involved discover whether the role of change lead and enabler is best suited to them and corresponds with how they are behaving in practice together, they will see if they are in the right seat and not in someone else’s.

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