A Survival Guide for Leaders The Real Reason People Won’t

Introduction to the Lesson with the authors’ summaries:

  1. A Survival Guide for Leaders

Let’s face it, to lead is to live dangerously. While leadership is often viewed as an exciting and glamorous endeavor, one in which you inspire others to follow you through good times and bad, such a portrayal ignores leadership’s dark side: the inevitable attempts to take you out of the game. This is particularly true when a leader must steer an organization through difficult change. When the status quo is upset, people feel a sense of profound loss and dashed expectations. They may need to undergo a period of feeling incompetent or disloyal. It’s no wonder they resist the change and often try to eliminate its visible agent. This “survival guide” offers a number of techniques–relatively straightforward in concept but difficult to execute–for protecting yourself as you lead such a change initiative. Adapted from the book Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading (Harvard Business School Press, 2002), the article has two main parts. The first looks outward, offering tactical advice about relating to your organization and the people in it. It is designed to protect you from those who would push you aside before you complete your initiatives. The second looks inward, focusing on your own needs and vulnerabilities. It is designed to keep you from bringing yourself down. The hard truth is that it is not possible to experience the rewards and joys of leadership without experiencing the pain as well. But staying in the game and bearing that pain is worth it, not only for the positive changes you can make in the lives of others but also for the meaning it gives your own.

  1. The Real Reason People Won’t Change

Every manager is familiar with employees who won’t change. Sometimes it’s easy to see why, but other times it can be very puzzling when the individual has the skill, capability and commitment to change but does nothing. So what’s going on?

Often resistance to change does not reflect opposition or inertia, but rather a hidden ‘competing

commitment’, which is often poorly articulated or even unconscious. Many of these “competing

commitments” are based on long-held beliefs that are an integral part of their make-up so they can be difficult to change.

Some examples of ‘competing commitments’ are:

  • dragging one’s feet on an assignment because one wants to avoid a next tougher assignment or
  • future lack of work.
  • avoiding teamwork or meetings because one wants to avoid the conflict that is associated with it
  • using sarcastic disruptive humor to keep oneself at a distance from a work group you may not
  • want to be associated with
  • not progressing a contact because of a fear of being accountable for the results of one’s work.

Lesson objectives/outcomes

At the end of this assignment, students will be able:

  1. To name the critical skills that leaders need to manage change in organizations.
  2. To illustrate some of the critical actions that an organization should take with the realization that change is necessary?
  3. To explain why do employees resist change in the workplace.
  4. To show what leaders can do to lower or diminish employees’ resistance to change


Discussions will be posted per week on Canvas. Students are required to post their views and discussions.  You are also expected to read and respond to at least two (2) of your classmates’ postings for each discussion.  

Your participation is an indication that you are learning. Your posted responses would demonstrate your understanding and application of the knowledge gained.  Your postings to each discussion must be substantial and be supported with citations.  Please follow the APA style for your writing.  Remember this is a graduate level course and the length of your postings should be a minimum of 200 to 300 words in length.  Discussion postings are expected to be more than just “I absolutely agree” or “Excellent point!” to receive credits; a guideline is that responses to your classmates’ postings should be between 100 to 150 words.  All postings (discussions and responses) must be posted by the due date in order to receive full credits. 

Please note that there are two due dates for all your online discussions:   

  1. Your initial posting in response to the discussion questions is due no later than the Thursday of the assigned week.
  2. Your minimum of two (2) responses to two (2) or more of your classmates’ postings are due by the assigned Sunday of that week. 

The instructor would be monitoring all the ongoing “dialogues” and grading students on their participation. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some critical skills that leaders need to manage change in organizations? As leaders, please discuss some of the critical actions that an organization should take with the realization that change is necessary?
  2. In your opinion and experience, why do employees resist change in the workplace? What can leaders do to lower or diminish employees’ resistance to change?

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