Blanchard – Five Change Leadership Strategies


In his book Leading at a Higher Level, Dr. Ken Blanchard suggests that change is like “permanent whitewater (Blanchard, 2018, p. 209).” I agree. In other words, change is constant and sometimes hard to handle. Unfortunately, people tend to resist change because they are drawn toward consistency (Mounsher, 2017). Perhaps this is another clue as to why roughly 70 percent of all organizational transformations fail (Bucy, Finlayson, Kelly, & Moye, 2016).

One of the hallmarks of effective leadership is overcoming challenges regarding change (Mullins, 2019). For this, Dr. Ken Blanchard discusses five solid strategies that leaders can use to implement change, and I thought I would share them with you but also provide some additional insight and refinement. Blanchard suggests that leaders expand involvement and influence, explain why the change is necessary, collaborate with the team regarding the implementation of the change, ensure that the change is sustainable, and always explore possibilities (Blanchard, 2018). While there is definitely more that can be done, these concepts can get the ball rolling in the right direction.

Strategy 1 – Expand Involvement and Influence

Blanchard suggests that this is the heart of the change process and is necessary throughout the change process (p. 226). While I wouldn’t go as far as calling it “the heart,” it is definitely important. Essentially, it is about gaining buy-in. Blanchard suggests that one of the easiest ways to achieve this is to identify and engage early adopters of the change initiative and empower them to become peer advocates (p. 229). Additionally, and understanding that with any change comes an abundance of concerns, a leader should be proactive in thoroughly addressing the concerns as they are presented. However, something important to note is that a leader should appreciate that some people may not be so forthcoming regarding their concerns. Therefore, a leader might want to seek out or inquire about concerns not already addressed.

Strategy 2 – Explain Why the Change is Necessary

It could be argued that strategy two should be moved up on this list. Logic dictates that before one can buy into a change, the worker needs to understand why the change is necessary. Still, Blanchard points to a lack of sound reason and a compelling vision for why many changes fail (p. 233). With that, I completely agree. A leader must not only paint a picture of what the destination looks like but also demonstrate why the status quo will hinder the team’s advancement toward that vision. Clearly articulated, this process provides both reason and vision clarity, which, in my opinion, should always come first. In turn, a leader could identify those who agree with the vision and need, empower your advocates, and foster the buy-in. Nonetheless, the explanation is critical.

Strategy 3 – Collaborate on Implementation

Strategy three requires the team to work together on the change initiative. Specifically, the team must be an active part of the process. Blanchard advocates the empowerment of workers to both plan and pilot the necessary tasks. In that, he suggests that leaders ensure the process is simplified when possible and that leaders should focus teams and efforts on the things that will make the most significant impact (p. 239). Furthermore, leaders should assess progress on multiple fronts and ensure constant communication and collaboration.

Strategy 4 – Make the Change Sustainable

Blanchard states that one of the organizations’ biggest dangers is that leaders jump right into this strategy without first addressing the previous strategies (p. 241). However, in this step, the change must become a part of the organization’s culture. This strategy requires that a leader’s actions reflect the stated initiative and that leaders hold people accountable for both failures and victories. Blanchard’s compelling point for this strategy is that leaders should not wait for a perfect performance to provide the necessary praise. I agree. Progress is still progress, and performance is usually, at least initially, hindered when a significant change is made to a process. Embrace it and act accordingly.

Strategy 5 – Explore the Possibilities

There is more than one way to skin a cat, and leaders are often not the smartest person in the room. At least, not if that leader has been hired correctly. Blanchard suggests that exploration is essential (p. 245). In other words, allow the team to explore possibilities and options. However, leaders need to understand that refinement and innovation are the children of such exploration.

Supplemental Understanding

I am compelled to follow the preceding with an additional consideration. Blanchard mentions the importance of addressing concerns, but I think we need another frame. Leaders must appreciate that people are generally suspicious and fearful of the unforeseen. Fear of the unknown has been called a “fundamental fear” because it directly impacts the body and mind (Carleton, 2016). Leaders who appreciate this and work to get ahead of that fear before the change is initiated will likely have a better chance of success using the first strategy. Similarly, let me reiterate what Blanchard does not emphasize. Vision is everything. You definitely need to start there.

Regardless, the advice is simple. Understand what change is, understand why most struggle with change, understand and appreciate the physiological impact that the unknown can have, and proactively work to overcome it. Leaders can do that by ensuring that the vision is apparent, that the initial path is illuminated, and that the change is appropriately and clearly framed in their people’s thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes. When this is followed up with the expectation that mastery happens through repetition, not because it was tried once, we begin to develop a more agile team.

You can read more about this perspective by checking out my article “The Difficulty of Change and How to Overcome It.


Blanchard, K. H. (2018). Leading at a Higher Level: Blanchard on Leadership and Creating High Performing Organizations. Pearson Education.

Bucy, M., Finlayson, A., Kelly, G., & Moye, C. (2016, May 9). The ‘how’ of transformation. Retrieved July 20, 2020, from

Carleton, R. N. (2016). Fear of the unknown: One fear to rule them all? Journal of Anxiety Disorders41, 5–21. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2016.03.011

Mounsher, C. (2017, October 1). Why do we struggle with change? Retrieved from

Mullins, G. (2019). Online Discussion Board. Williamsburg.