MBA students who pursue a specialization receive an advanced business education as well as in-depth training in one specific area. If you're interested in a particular industry or aspect of business, an MBA with a specialization can give you more targeted management knowledge and skills.

We sat down with James Dworkin, Chancellor Emeritus/Professor of Management, Krannert School of Management at Purdue University, to learn why a Master of Business Administration with a specialization in leadership, negotiation and change management is important.

Dworkin says that each area of the specialization—leadership, change management, and negotiation—is an important topic on its own for business leaders, but understanding how the three interact and affect each other is crucial.

“They all go together,” he says. “A good leader has to be able to create the vision, share it effectively, and manage the change. That’s why this specialization is so important.”

What Is Change Management in Business?

Change will always happen in a business, but managing that change to achieve a successful outcome is the challenge.

According to a study by Gartner, the typical organization has undergone five major firmwide changes in the past three years. But the study says half of the change initiatives fail, while only 34% are clearly successful.

Dworkin says that organizations need to change to thrive and prosper, but that there are challenges that come with those disruptions. “People hate change,” he says. “People like to do things the same way they always do.”

That’s where change management comes in. Change management is a way to guide organizations through times of disruption or growth. Dworkin says four core ideas comprise change management:

  • Understanding why a change is necessary
  • Planning how to implement changes
  • Executing a change
  • Communicating the change

A central tenet of change management theories is that no change happens in isolation. Changes will always affect the whole organization and all the people in it. Effective change management, however, encourages people to adapt and even embrace change.

Dworkin says much of change management involves managing people and often requires leadership and negotiation skills to be successful.

How Does Strong Leadership Fit in With Change Management?

Leading effectively in change management means you must help people buy into your vision for the organization. This communication needs to occur consistently, and your message needs to be clear.

A study by the Center for Creative Leadership says successful change leaders follow the “3 C’s of change” leadership model:

  • Communicate—Share the “what” and the “why”
  • Collaborate—Bring people together early
  • Commit—Resilience and persistence in getting change done

“People don't believe in change unless you have an effective leader, somebody who is conveying the message all the time, why it's so important to get through the change,” Dworkin says.

In the core theories of change management, strong leadership is an integral part of all four phases of a change, from understanding to communicating.

While change management is often associated with smaller changes, blending those skills with leadership can lead to larger institutional shifts. Change leadership is associated with accelerating the change process and making it move faster, smarter, and more efficiently.

How Is Negotiation Part of Leadership and Change Management?

Negotiation skills are a soft skill integral to effective leadership. According to one survey, more than 40% of U.S. employees don’t feel confident in their negotiation skills. This is unfortunate, because Dworkin says negotiation is among the most important skills someone can have—both in the boardroom and beyond.

“Even though many people don't think of it, we negotiate and make decisions all the time,” Dworkin says. “When organizations undergo change and employees bristle, effective change leadership requires the ability to negotiate. Failing to incorporate negotiation into a change management strategy can result in lost opportunities and dissatisfied stakeholders.”

Potential Job Titles With an MBA With a Specialization in Leadership, Negotiation and Change Management

Dworkin says having leadership, negotiation, and change management skills can help you from entry-level positions to the top of the corporate ladder. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says management analysts of all types can expect job growth of 14% until 2030, much faster than average. And the skills they bring to companies are vital.

For those considering their career options after obtaining an MBA with this specialty, there are many options. Specifically, in realm of change management, Dworkin says some common job titles include the following:

  • Business readiness leader
  • Business realization manager
  • Business transformation manager
  • Business transition analyst
  • Change management consultant or advisor
  • Change realization leader
  • Implementation specialist
  • Organizational adoption leader
  • Organizational readiness analyst

Most importantly, Dworkin stressed that leadership, negotiation and change management skills continue to grow and benefit students beyond their first job, meaning there’s career potential beyond your MBA. “Unsuccessful CEOs are CEOs who do not have these kinds of skills.”

Earn an MBA With a Specialization in Leadership, Negotiation and Change Management

Change is inevitable in life and business. Too often, organizations are left without proper management to weather the upheaval that structural change can cause. Even outside the C-suite, businesses are seeking leaders who can communicate effectively, plan, and adapt as needed.

Krannert School of Business at Purdue University offers an online MBA with a specialization in leadership, negotiation and change management. If you’re ready to learn more, reach out today.