“Everything I do has to be of service to other people and totally exciting for me.” Rob Brezsny,

They identify opportunities for change and act on them– instead of just talking about it or waiting for someone else to take the lead. We admire them for their energy and courage” Jennifer Louden

So what is a Change Agent –  quite simply it is somebody or something that brings about, or helps to bring about, change!  In Change Management it is usually a person whose presence or thought processes cause a change from the traditional way of handling or thinking about a problem to a new way of thinking.  The result of change agent activity is to enable people to do more, or find a new and better perspective on work and to achieve a new corporate vision.  It’s a special role but one we might all aspire to!  Here’s what I think it takes!

A change agent has Vision. Regardless of what is going on today, a change agent has a vision to see what could be!  This can be from their own thinking or being able to understand a vision articulated by someone else!   To a certain extent, a change agent is dissatisfied with what they see around them, and the status quo.   They are looking for something better and without this future drive, the change agent can lose their way.

A change agent can communicate. Change agents can communicate their vision to those about them.  They can share and paint you a picture that can fire your enthusiasm!  You want to follow their lead!

A change agent has passion. Change is hard work. It takes a lot of energy. Don’t underestimate this. Without passion, it is very difficult indeed to muster up enough energy to assault the fortress of status quo that seems to otherwise carry the day.

A change agent is self-motivated. There will be many days where everyone around does not seem understand where a change agent is trying to lead. The change agent needs to find it within themselves to live with being misunderstood and knowing that the real validation may be far in the future and may be claimed by someone else.

A change understands people. At the end of the day, change is about people. If you change everything but the people, I doubt you’ll be effective as a change agent. Change will really “stick” when people embrace it. Therefore, change is part sales, part counseling and part encouragement. It’s all about people.

A change agent can empathize. To be successful a change agent needs to be able to see change from the perspective of those being asked to change and understand and manage their discomfort.  It is important to understand, but not to sympathize with them to the point where you cannot function.  A change agent needs to be able to manage their own feelings without being cold!  It really helps to have a deep commitment to the Vision

A change agent has fortitude. To get up and do this job every day takes real inner strength! A tough change will take all your energy, strength and good will but my word will it be rewarding at the end


  1. Fantastic List.

    A few more:

    1. Be able to master one’s self

    2. Integrate theory and practice

    3. Ability to work the whole system systematically

    4. Surface Relevant Data

    5. Participatively create extraordinary and committed action plans

    6. Keep true information flowing in a safe environment

    7. Communicate and facilitate transition

    8. Align leadership and be able to stay in a relationship with them so they can guide and support the change

    9. Leave system so the change is sustained

    10. Train an internal change agent to take the place of the external change agent.

    I will be publishing 30 years of research on change agent competencies this fall ( 09) in the third edition of Practicing OD by wiley.. Sullivan and Sullivan and Rothwell and Stavros.

  2. Pingback: Managing against the tide « A Bottom's Up View From a Pai Mei (白眉) Guy
    1. Thanks for this – it is always good to be appreciated. I tried to link up with you on LinkIn but we don’t seem to belong to any of the same groups

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