How to Navigate Collisions Between Leaders and Managers

Leaders change things. Managers stabilize things.

Stagnant organizations need leadership. Chaotic organizations need management.


Tension between change agents and stabilizers is inevitable, dynamic, potentially dangerous, and often useful.

Ask people who love stability to go to the left side of the room. Ask people who love change to go to the right. Know there are tensions between these two groups.

Tensions in organizational life often emerge in the gap between change agents and stabilizers.

#1. Stabilizers apart from change agents are dangerous.

Stabilizers create predictability and efficiencies. In a changing world you can become efficient and irrelevant if you are consistent at things that don’t matter.

The ultimate goal of stable organizations eventually becomes self-preservation.

#2. Change agents apart from stabilizers are dangerous.

Change agents destabilize processes and procedures in search of innovation and growth. They transform organizations into fast moving machines filled with inefficiencies.

Eventually the goal of chaotic organizations becomes self-preservation.

Constant change or persistent sameness increases stress, lowers confidence, and decreases productivity.


The benefit of colliding perspectives is diversity and maturity.

Dynamic organizations deliver value to their constituents, customers, and communities when they successfully navigate collisions between change agents and stabilizers.

How much:

  1. You need stable foundations to innovate.
  2. Organizations tend to stagnate apart from intervention.
  3. Innovation and change are best embraced and expressed by organizations that work on change AND processes.
  4. Change produces vitality. Constant change, however, discourages people and creates chaos.
  5. Forward moving organizations always lean into change.

True stability:

Shared values are the foundation of stability.

When organizations feel stagnant or chaotic, go to values first, then vision and processes.

Do small doses of change yield big results or is it necessary to ‘shake things up’?

Can you balance stability and change or do 50/50 organizations stagnate?