After defining culture and showing how it can be important to foundations, the next issue to explore is how leadership creates a strong organizational culture that meets the needs of the organization and its employees. Management theorists offer a number of ways that leaders can create and manage effective organizational cultures, and they often agree that it is a primary responsibility of leaders to pay attention to their cultures.
• Creating the Vision
• Creating a Sense of Urgency
• Vision and Values
• Avoiding Elitism
In summary, the most effective way to remind staff of the importance of their work is to create a culture within the foundation that points to the foundation’s successes and includes every employee in the celebration of these successes. Even though foundations are committed to lofty goals and the furtherance of the greater good, foundation leadership must not be remiss in ensuring that all staff members know that their actions play a part in key successes.
Role of a leader as a change agent?
Change processes and change projects have become major milestones in many organizations’ history. Due to the dynamics in the external environment, many organizations find themselves in nearly continuous change. The scope reaches from smaller change projects in particular sub business units up to corporation-wide transformation processes.
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Unfortunately, not every change process leads to the expected results. There are multiple reasons for potential failure: Typical barriers to change are unexpected changes in the external conditions, a lack of commitment in implementation, resistance of people involved, or a lack of resources. The implications of failed change projects go beyond missed objectives. More important is the negative symbolism and the de-motivation of people involved. People within the change team may become dissatisfied with their own performance or with the lack of support they received. In the result, some of them will probably never again be willing to commit themselves to change initiatives. Similarly, people affected by the (failed) change effort will develop growing skepticism. They might perceive future change projects as “another fancy idea from management”, which brings a lot of work and few benefits.
In the light of the many problems and risks associated with change projects, the change agent has a very important function. The change agent’s or change leader’s capabilities have a major impact on success or failure of the project, and on the extent of potential unwanted side-effects.
Change agents always need the ability to get all people affected by the project involved, to ensure their support and commitment. This requires a high competency as the basis for acceptance as well as soft skills, which are often summarized as emotional intelligence. This includes the ability to communicate, to understand and to take into account opinions and doubts of others. Change projects involve a great variety of factors and forces. These factors do not only comprise the reasons and objectives for change, but also the existing state of the organization, values, beliefs and routines of the people there. Many change projects challenge the existing cultural framework of an organization. Efforts to change such lasting values, however, lead to resistance and denial. More than in technology-related projects (e.g. implementation of new software), it takes the acceptance and the support of all people affected by such projects to make them succeed. It is the change agent’s task to generate this acceptance in order to implement change with the people, not against them.
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Buchanan und Boddy3 have carried out a study on the perceived effectiveness of change agents. On that basis, they compiled the fifteen most important competencies of change agents. These, too, are evidence for the importance of the soft factors:
15 Key Competencies of Change Agents
1. Sensitivity to changes in key personnel, top management perceptions and market conditions, and to the way in which these impact the goals of the project.
2. Setting of clearly defined, realistic goals.
3. Flexibility in responding to changes without the control of the project manager, perhaps requiring major shifts in project goals and management style.
4. Team-building abilities, to bring together key stakeholders and establish effective working groups, and to define and delegate respective responsibilities clearly.
5. Networking skills in establishing and maintaining appropriate contacts within and outside the organization.
6. Tolerance of ambiguity, to be able to function comfortably, patiently and effectively in an uncertain environment.
7. Communication skills to transmit effectively to colleagues and subordinates the need for changes in the project goals and in individual tasks and responsibilities.
8. Interpersonal skills, across the range, including selection, listening, collecting appropriate information, identifying the concerns of others, and managing meetings.
9. Personal enthusiasm in expressing plans and ideas.
10. Stimulating motivation and commitment in others involved.
11. Selling plans and ideas to others by creating a desirable and challenging vision of the future.
12. Negotiating with key players for resources, for changes in procedures, and to resolve conflict.
13. Political awareness in identifying potential coalitions, and in balancing conflicting goals and perceptions.
14. Influencing skills, to gain commitment to project plans and ideas form potential skeptics and resisters.
15. Helicopter perspectives, to stand back from the immediate project and take a broader view of priorities.
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