Assessing the role of leadership in transformation in a learning organization

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Parker, Kathy
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Much has been written about the dramatic nature and pace of change that is ongoing in our w rld. Change can be both evolutionary and revolutionary. In an era where the speed and nature of change is having a profound effect on organizations, most are looking for ways to respond to these forces of change: to make changes to their organizations to make them more flexible, more adaptable. Among these organizations, a smaller number are looking to do much more than simply improve or alter existing processes in their organizations: they are looking to fundamentally reform or "transform" their organizations. Within this environment, the capacity to adapt to, or try to 'manage' change has become increasingly important. But in an environment of increasing complexity and uncertainty is it really possible to manage change? This thesis explores the issue of change and how leadership can influence the ability to navigate change effectively, within learning organizations. The Thesis suggests that, while it may not be realistic to try to manage change, the leaders of organizations may be able to create the conditions necessary to prepare for and adapt to change, and indeed, to seize the opportunities that change may present. More specifically, this thesis suggests that this role is the central one for leadership in helping organizations survive and thrive. With these ideas in mind, a framework for initially examining the role of leadership with respect to organizational change is developed. The creation of this framework involves looking at living systems theory, understanding the nature of change, identifying key leadership attributes and tasks, and juxtaposing these against what systems theory suggests as a potential role for leadership.