The Topeka System

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Leadership Change and Management

Leadership change and management have been tackled in the ‘Topeka System’ from the late 1960s, which Kotter (1996) and Cohen (2004) further developed. Moreover, these three are closely connected. They all acknowledge that an organization needs a team to bring about change. Therefore, it becomes obvious that an individual alone cannot alter the structure of the organization but requires other people’s contributions. For instance, Cohen (2004) admits that an organization needs two leaders, one who derives the vision of the company and the other that transforms the organization practically. Similarly, in the “Topeka System”, supervisors and leaders were employed to develop the firm thus enabled concrete change. Another relation is that they minimized positions. This was to prevent disunion, stimulate communication, and maintain unity. Cohen (2004) further realizes that structures should be reduced for effective change to occur thus encourages responsible leadership in the organization. In the ‘Topeka System’ only three managerial ranks were available, which enabled the birth of a robust supportive structure.

In “Leading Change”,

Kotter (1996) created eight steps in changing an organization. He states that failure in an organization arises when managers look more at organizational change as an event rather than a process. In his research, he lists by order eight steps necessary to transform any organization, including: “sense of urgency, forming a guiding coalition, creating a vision, communicating the vision, empowering others to act the vision, planning short-term wins, uniting improvements and organization culture change” (Kotter, 1996). In the philosophy of leadership and management, culture change cannot be a prerequisite to management and leadership principles. In order to adapt to a new culture, people need to acquaint with new methods and behaviors that help them improve performance in an organization. For example, behavioral change in an organization will occur depending on the level of performance recorded thus transforming the attitudes of all employees. Leadership change is needed in order for an organization to be able to compete effectively in a constantly changing business environment. Such changes are vividly seen in the “Topeka System” which was later advanced by Cohen (2004) and Kotter (1996), who talked about effective leadership change in an organization transforming an organization respectively.


Cohen, A. R. (2004). Building a company of leaders. Leader to Leader, 16-20.

Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading change. USA: Harvard Business School Press.

January 19, 2024



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