Critical Influence: Leadership Behavior

What is leadership behavior and why does it matter during a change in the workplace?

leadership behavior in managing workplace changeLeadership behavior in the workplace is a set of actions that influences how employees carry out their job responsibilities. Great leaders guide, inspire, and motivate their teams to achieve the goals and objectives of the organization.

While considering what makes a company a desirable place to work, many employees may state a generous compensation package or a first-rate working environment, other employees, however, may view great leadership as a deciding factor.

Excellent leaders are often those who refuse to bask in the light of superiority, and instead strive to put their team members in the best position to be successful. Successful leaders have heightened awareness of their position and the gravity of their influence on those they manage. This especially holds true during times of organizational change.


As part of the 15 Critical Influences™, this page on Leadership Behavior is integrated with actual content from the book Innovations in Office Design: The Critical Influence Approach to Effective Work Environments™ by SCG Founder Diane Stegmeier.


The impact of leadership behavior in managing workplace change

Undeniably, leadership behavior is one of the most crucial factors affecting organizational endeavors such as talent retention, productivity, innovation and particularly, workplace changes. When companies change where and how work gets done, employees look to their direct supervisors, division leaders, and those in the C-Suite to lead the way through a successful change implementation

Change managers may often be too absorbed with overcoming resistance and lose sight of their own roles in the utilization of a new physical workplace designed for collaboration.

In our many years of engagement with various organizations, Stegmeier Consulting Group has witnessed workplace changes having a much higher success rate when top leaders are engaged in the initiative and hold individuals throughout the enterprise accountable for the appropriate use of the new work environment. This is especially true when executive sponsors actively buy-in, such as a senior leadership team that eschews having private offices and instead sits in the open amidst individual contributors in their new collaborative work environment.

In contrast, we’ve often been brought in midstream on a change initiative where executive involvement has amounted to simply hoping employee complaints will die down once a change is complete. Negativity and resistance can cascade down through an organization when leadership does little more than sign off on the new workplace strategy while carrying on as if they are exempt from the changes expected of the rest of the workforce.

Visible leaders help organizations unite

Many organizations’ goals are centered on fostering creativity and innovation by building proactive and collaborative teams. To achieve this, they employ workplace solutions such as cybercafes, comfortable lounges, and breakout areas designed to motivate spontaneous interaction among employees. 

leadership behavior in a new, collaborative workplaceWhile there is good intention behind this strategy, leaders may forget that they are also responsible for proper usage of these collaborative spaces. In these same organizations, leaders are too often tucked away in their private offices or conducting structured meetings in formal settings.

The workplace strategy is then questioned, as team members are left to wonder why those at the higher levels avoid these places that are designated for everyone to use.

The usual notion that the actions of the organization’s leaders should serve as an example and set the standards for employee behavior is also worth considering. When the practice of avoiding collaboration zones and informal areas is observed among senior managers, typically, the staff members will follow suit. 

To prevent this from being practiced in a workplace that is supposed to be teeming with collaborative energy, leaders need to be educated on the impact their actions have among the workforce. In fact, they should be the first ones embracing the new workplace. Increased visibility among the leaders will lead to employees being comfortable in exchanging ideas with them and eventually, transform the workplace into an innovative environment.

An open-space plan critic turned into an advocate

After thoroughly exploring the effects of leadership behavior in managing workplace change initiatives, let’s look into an example drawn from an engagement with one of SCG’s former clients. 

The client was an architectural and interior design firm undergoing a workplace redesign. Based on the client’s evolving business objectives, it was determined that a much more open office environment was necessary to improve the exchange of information at all levels of the rapidly growing company.

To solve long-existing issues involving transparency on the executives’ activities and availability for peer guidance, the interior group designed an open leadership community. This design was expected to expedite workflows on all levels of the firm. 

Despite the fact that the CEO supported this transformation, one of the vice presidents on the senior leadership team was vehemently opposing it. He was struggling with a psychological loss of status he feared would result if he was uprooted from his executive suite.

One morning, this vice president had stormed into the CEO’s office carrying a large stack of articles supposedly proving that removing managers from their private offices would fail. Fortunately, the CEO knew his colleague all too well. He told him to “come back once you’ve read all of the articles.” Long story short, soon after that incident, the VP became one of our staunchest advocates for transitioning to an open leadership space.

What is the important takeaway out of this case? That resistance can sometimes come from the leadership team and it is necessary for leaders to realize that driving collaboration in the workplace requires their commitment and active participation, too.

Leadership toolkits to help prepare change managers

Do your organization’s leaders need a tap on their shoulders to get them in the zone of managing workplace changes? Equip your leaders with the tools and support they need to be champions of change. The first step is easy! Get in touch with us by filling out the form below.