The role of the change agent: what, which types, key characteristics.


A change agent is anyone who has the skill and power to stimulate, facilitate, and coordinate the change effort (Lunenburg, 2011). It can be an internal employee or it can be an external one. At the start of this new IC2 module, it is a good idea to look a bit closer at this role of change agent (consultant).

According to Lunenburg (2011) there are four types of change agents:

  • Outside pressure type: from the outside of the organisation, this type often provides more radical change options.
  • People-change-technology type: the focus of the change agent is the individual. If the individual changes its behaviour, the organisation will also change.
  • Analysis-for-the-top type: focus on changing the organizational structure to improve output and efficiency. Many managers take up this role.
  • Organization-development type: focus on internal processes such as interpersonal group relations and communication. Cultural change approach. Also taken up by many managers.

In my experience, changes in educational contexts (schools) are way too informal. In Flanders, a change agent is not "present" in schools. Most likely, it is a headmaster or an innovative teacher/ICT coordinator. There is no role of change agent explicitly assigned to people. This is probably one of the reasons why change in school culture is so difficult.

If there are (implicit) change agents in schools, they are type 2 and 4: the focus on change of the individual; and the focus on the interpersonal group relations. External change agents are not present in schools, and the improved efficiency output is perhaps too “business-like”. Although one could argue that improve teaching output and pedagogic efficiency are essential (business)outputs for a school…

Whatever type of change agent you are, you will have one, more or all of these characteristics:

Being able to build strong relationships based on trust

Authentic: lead by example


Having a curious and open mind

Tenacious; realising that change is never easy, but the result of hard work. "The process is the leader" dixit @johanroels ...


1. Picture: 

Holland, Matt. "The change agent." (2000): 105-107.

Lunenburg, Fred C. "Managing change: The role of the change agent." International Journal of Management, Business and Administration 13.1 (2010).

5 Characteristics of a Change Agent | The Principal of Change." 2013. 5 Mar. 2014

The Process is the Leader - Johan Roels' presentation at