Change leadership

'Change leadership' is transforming and aligning an organisation through its people to drive for improvement in a new and challenging direction.


It is energising a whole organisation to want to change in the same direction. The innovation idea or end-state goal could well come from someone else, but the change leader is the one driving the movement through the organisation’s people.

At low levels of performance, this competency is merely a basic acceptance of minor improvements. At medium performance levels it is a proactive challenging of the status quo and pointing out what needs to be changed. A CIO at this level would define the positive direction in which change should go, and make a case that others can buy into – persuading people logically to change.

At high performance levels it is creating a massive, co-ordinated change across an entire complex organisation. A world-class change leader creates change across multiple organisations – functional, regional, or business-based – or creates a culture where the organisation is capable of constant change for improved results.

These benchmarks rate executive performance on a scale of one to seven (see rating legend). Plotted scores are the average of all scores from the 50th to 85th percentile range. Data is derived from 25,000 plus executive assessments conducted by Egon Zehnder International.

Executive behaviour rating legend:

  1. Fulfills assigned tasks
  2. Would like to make things better
  3. Driven by goals
  4. Drives to exceed goals
  5. Improves business practices
  6. Redesigns business practices
  7. Transforms business model

Are you ready for change leadership?

Readers wishing to improve their performance in this critically important competency first need to examine organisational readiness for the CIO as a change champion, and then assess their own personal readiness for this strategic role. Some questions to ask include:


  • Is the organisation open to change?
  • Where has the organisation changed over the past three to five years? What was the scope of the change? How fast did the change occur?
  • Where has the organisation changed over the past three to five years? What was the scope of the change? How fast did the change occur?
  • How easy is it to influence the organisation; how complex is it?
  • Do you know who the players are that are key to getting the organisation to change?
  • Individually

  • Do you understand the principles of effective influence and organisational alignment?
  • Are you simply an implementer rather than someone who drives change?
  • How strong is your ability to read the political winds?
  • Do you know how decisions are really made in the organisation and can you insert yourself into that?
  • Do you enjoy or get energised by the process of engaging with others or influencing?
  • Reynold Lewke is Egon Zehnder’s North American CIO practice leader, and can be reached at [email protected] Steve Kelner is global knowledge leader of Egon Zehnder’s talent management and management appraisal practice group, and can be reached at [email protected]

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