Leading cultural change



In leading cultural change, understanding people within the team and outside of the team is of high importance.  The effective leader has to segregate her team and those around her into at least three major groups.  These are early adopters, late adopters or followers and critics.  Each of these groups plays a part in propagating the change contemplated by the leader.  Some help it, others thwart it.

Proper identification and effective delegation of these people is important for introducing change effectively.

Early Adopters

First group will be the early adopters or enthusiastic supporters – the effective leader must identify these folks and bring them on-board.  Their energy and passion must be harnessed towards the important tasks in the execution phase.

A great book on understanding mavens, connectors and salesmen is Malcolm Gladwell’s, “The Tipping Point”.  Effective leaders that are contemplating a change in their environment and team would do well to absorb the writings from this NY Times bestseller.

Late adopters or followers

Second group will be the followers.  Usually these are people that do not care whether change is implemented or not.  They are basically indifferent to the environment, have other distractions or interests and simply go through the motions.

This group will follow the flow of the tide.  Once the early adopters swell in number and the change gains momentum, these followers will come on-board.

The effective leader would do well to identify these people, but take care to not entrust them with key tasks in the beginning.

Can they not perform those tasks?  Of course, they can.  It is just that the first group will perform those same tasks with greater enthusiasm and infectiously positive attitude which will help the objective progress faster.


Critics or naysayers form the third group.  Unfortunately these people can be found in every organization.  They will always complain and look for issues caused by the change and areas where the change has hurt the organization.  They will look to blow these instances up and make it sound much bigger and more damaging than reality.

There is only one way for the effective leader to deal with this group.  Identify them first, and keep them out of the strategy to the extent possible.  Where it is not possible, give them those tasks where they cannot cause any derailment to the change objective.  Where possible, remove the most vocal critics out of the team.  For this, the leader has to first identify the person(s) and then act swiftly.

Related readings:

Here is a cool article providing tips on how to attract early adopters to your product.  This can also be scaled to your new idea or strategy for culture change:


The following post from Content Marketing Institute shows a generic composition of the various types of people found in a population with respect to adoption of ideas – this is quite revealing and interesting:


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