chapter  13
12 Pages

Leaders as Agents of Continuity: Self Continuity and Resistance to Collective Change

Y ou cannot step into the same self twice. As Heraclites observed, everything is in flux, and more recent insights suggest that this observation includes the self-concept (Markus & Wurf, 1987; Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell, 1987). Our self-conception changes and develops over time and situations. Yet, there also are clear indications that a sense of continuity of self is a central and valued aspect of the way we see ourselves, as emphasized in other chapters in this book. In this chapter, we argue that self continuity is not only a valued aspect of individual self-definition (self as I), but also of collective self-definition (self as we). We propose that this desire for collective self continuity helps explain resistance to changes to membership groups and organizations, and we apply these insights to outline how effective leadership of change involves leadership that provides a sense of continuity of group identity. In this sense, effective leadership of change requires leaders to function not only as agents of change, but also as agents of continuity. We illustrate this point focusing on the organizational change literature, an area where change is considered essential, but the psychology of change ill-understood (e.g., Armenakis & Bedeian, 1999; van Knippenberg & van Knippenberg, 2004).