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  • Writer's pictureMatt Garris

Rhythm of Change Leadership

The following post is adapted from my personal academic coursework.

Rhythm of Change Leadership

Perhaps ironically, change has become a constant in today’s fiercely competitive global marketplace. Organizations of all sizes and types have learned that they must adapt to survive. Those which have failed to learn this lesson eventually find themselves outpaced by their competitors and forced from the field of play onto the sidelines. For those organizations which do adapt, there are many avenues toward achieving their desired improvements.

One such approach to organizational change is Kerber and Buono’s rhythm of change leadership (hereinafter the rhythm approach). Essentially, they proposed a sequence of three leadership approaches corresponding to the stages of the change cycle. This approach incorporates the strengths of various other approaches and addresses many issues encountered as part of the organizational change process.

Current Developments

The rhythm approach is within itself a current development in the field of organizational change leadership. This method applies an interrelated model consisting of three established leadership approaches – directive, participative, and collective – to organizational situations based on their business complexity and socio-technical uncertainty. For simple, certain situations, Kerber and Buono prescribed a directed leadership approach; for complex, certain situations, they prescribed a participative leadership approach; and for all uncertain situations, they prescribed a collective approach with minimal regard to complexity. Acknowledging that change happens over time, they suggested that leadership should similarly fluctuate over time in response to the change process. One can easily apply this versatile approach to Kotter’s eight-stage change process with stages 1-2 using a directed approach, stage 3 using a participative approach, stages 4-5 using a collective approach, stages 6-7 using a participative approach, and stage 8 using a directive approach.

Best Practices

The most vital best practice of the rhythm approach is accurately interpreting the context of the stage of change to match it with the correct leadership style. Kerber and Buono suggested that “there are probably multiple, prototypical change leadership rhythms appropriate to different business situations.”

Another best practice is deliberation when using collective leadership. Värttö suggested that deliberative juries in which participants present their perspectives and willingly yield to the better arguments produce not only better collective decisions, but also “a shared understanding about organizational goals and values.” Proverbs 24:6 (NKJV) emphasizes the importance of wise counsel and states that “in a multitude of counselors there is safety.” It is imperative that these wise counselors understand the organization’s goals or the consequences could be disastrous. Merida related the story of Rehoboam receiving counsel from his friends who did not understand the organization’s goals and how following their advice led to the dissolution of the united monarchy.


The rhythm approach is significant because it synthesizes existing theories into a single, versatile, and easily understood approach to leading organizational change. Notably, this approach focuses on the process change rather than the outcome of the change. Packard noted that little of the literature on organizational change addresses the processes by which change happens and most of those studies focus only on qualitative data . While Dumas and Beinecke disagreed, stating that “the majority of change leadership research is process oriented,” both studies emphasized the importance of focusing on the process of change leadership.

Issues Resolved

Finally, the rhythm approach resolves a host of common issues in change leadership. One such issue is organizational resistance to change. Niska Dinda Nadia et al. found that “discomfort with change can lead to various forms of resistance to change, the intention to leave, low engagement and low commitment to change.” The rhythm approach addresses socio-technical uncertainty, which includes this discomfort. Through this approach, leaders can more effectively drive change and achieve results that will keep their organizations competitive and propel them toward continued success despite the next set of challenges they will encounter.


Dumas, C. & Beinecke, R. H. (2018). Change leadership in the 21st century. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 31(4), 867-876.

Kerber, K. W. & Buono, A. F. (2018). The rhythm of change leadership. Organization Development Journal, 36(3), 55-72.

Kotter, J. P. (2012). Leading change. Harvard Business Review Press.

Merida, T. (2015). Christ-centered exposition commentary: Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Kings. B & H Publishing Group.

Niska Dinda Nadia, F., Munir Sukoco, B., Susanto, E., Rizki Sridadi, A., & Ashari Nasution, R. (2020). Discomfort and organizational change as a part of becoming a world-class university. International Journal of Education Management, 34(8), 1265-1287.

Packard, T. (2019). Organizational change tactics in a homeless services agency. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 30, 353-363.

The Holy Bible, New King James Version (1982). Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Värttö, M. (2019). Democratization of organizational change process through deliberation. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 40(7), 791-802.


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