We all tend to fit one of seven types of change leader, each of which indicates a different mix of leading with Head, Heart, or Hands. The fourth change leader type is the Champion, who leads with a combined strength in Head and Heart.
Much of the change management literature highlights the importance of change champions. Here we’re focusing more on a behavioral style than on the act of championing, but there’s no doubt that we need people who promote change and rally others around the initiative.
As Rosabeth Moss Kanter points out in her book Evolve!, “‘If you can dream it, you can do it’ is not necessarily true. ‘If you can dream it AND make others dream it, you can do it.’” Champions know this instinctively; more than any other style of change leader, they have the capacity to provide compelling, persuasive cases for their lofty dreams.
But leadership author Jim Clemmer describes some of the problems we saw when Champions didn’t account for their blind spots: “Change Champions are vital learning leaders for an organization. We need their energy, ideas, and creativity today more than ever. But we have to learn how to coordinate their unbounded and disruptive zeal . . . For example . . . to understand the need for a delicate balance between change and stability.”
Even though Champions aren’t strongest with Hands skills, they can use their gifts to encourage practical action in others. In James Kouzes and Larry Posner’s The Leadership Challenge, one of the authors’ five leadership principles is “Enable Others to Act.” Champions do this naturally by fostering collaboration, creating a climate of trust, facilitating relationships, strengthening others, enhancing self-determination, and developing competence and confidence.
Champions excel at leading changes that are good for people and vital for the business. They get the big picture and enthusiastically jump at new challenges. Optimistic even in the face of setbacks, they exhibit unrelenting energy as they persuade others toward positive goals.