Building an implicit change leadership theory

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The purpose of this paper is to propose a model for implicit change leadership theory (ICLT) and to explore its relationship with perceived effectiveness of change management (CM).


The study employed a mixed-methods design. It used a qualitative approach to identify schemas on the traits and behaviors of an ideal leader and schemas on what constitute effective CM. A quantitative approach was followed to test the conceptual model.


The study suggests five competencies of ideal change leaders: strategic and technical competencies, execution competencies, social competencies, character, and resilience. Together, these five competencies comprise an ICLT. Moreover, schema congruence correlates with perceived effectiveness of CM. The closer the congruence between subordinates’ ideal change leader and their actual change leader, the greater the perceived effectiveness of CM.

Research limitations/implications

The study was limited to employees in the Philippines. It is thus suggested that data gathering in other populations be conducted to allow for generalizability of results. The research was cross-sectional in design, that limits causal explanations. Longitudinal studies examining perceptions and attitudes during and after the implementation of change could provide more robust evidence of the relationships between schemas and perceptions of change.

Practical implications

The results suggest that to increase the chances of success of their change initiatives, organizations could consider leadership development interventions that could enhance the competencies of their leaders in the implicit change leadership constructs. Organizations also need to consider employee schemas of effective CM when implementing change.


The main contribution of this paper is to expand implicit leadership theory by applying it to a specific leadership context, that of organizational change, and to derive an ICLT.