5 Critical Roles of Managers in Leading Change

In 30 years of helping organizations develop the internal capability to successfully implement change, I’ve had the opportunity to train, coach, collaborate with and learn from hundreds of managers. Through those interactions, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for how important managers are to successfully implementing change in organizations. Organizations that are committed to developing the capability of their managers as change leaders are more likely to realize the benefits of the changes they are implementing.

What do managers who are effective change leaders actually do? Best practices research conducted by Prosci identifies five critical roles that managers need to perform to support themselves and members of their teams to successfully adopt and use changes. The five roles are:

  1. Communicator
  2. Liaison
  3. Advocate
  4. Resistance manager
  5. Coach

An easy way to remember these five roles is by the acronym, CLARC. If you are a manager, picture yourself as being the Clarc Kent (Superman) of change leadership. If you perform each of these five roles effectively, you will have a positive impact on building ADKAR[1] levels (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement) for each member of your team.


Prosci’s research reveals that lack of awareness of why a change is needed is the primary reason that employees resist change. Your role as a Communicator is to build Awareness of the need for change, by answering the most important questions team members have regarding the personal impacts of a change, such as “why, why now, what if and how does it impact me/us?”.


Managers are an important source of feedback to the project team and change sponsors regarding progress in implementing a change. If managers of impacted teams are not consulted during the design and implementation phases of a change, the project team is “flying blind” and doesn’t have an accurate view of how effectively the change is being adopted. By performing the Liaison role, you can have a significant impact on Reinforcement, helping to ensure that the change will be sustained over time.


Most managers have significant influence on the perspectives of their employees. If you are a strong advocate for a change, your employees will likely follow your lead. If you demonstrate commitment to a change through your words and actions, you will build Desire in your employees.

Resistance Manager

Resistance is a natural human reaction to change. To effectively lead change, you need to be a thoughtful resistance manager. Being thoughtful means determining the root cause of resistance and choosing an effective strategy that addresses the root cause. If you address resistance, you will have a positive impact on the Desire and Reinforcement building blocks of the ADKAR model.


The term coach, in the context of leading change, refers to supporting your team members to gain the knowledge they need on how to apply a change and develop the ability to adopt and use the change in their daily work. If you are an effective coach, you will have a positive impact on the Knowledge and Ability building blocks for your team members.

How well are you doing in carrying out these five roles? Is your organization developing the capability of managers to be effective change leaders? The influence of the five critical roles on building the ADKAR model is explored in detail in Prosci’s Change Management Program for Managers. If you are interested in bringing this program into your organization, please contact Andrew Horlick.

[1] The ADKAR model is copyrighted by Prosci.