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Published by:
ESMT European School of Management and Technology (2009)
25 February 2013
Revision date:
10 pages
Data source:
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This is the first of a three-case series. This three-part case-study illustrates key concepts and lessons about leading adaptive change in organisations in the context of turning around Deutsche Telekom, one of the world's largest telecommunication companies. The case portrays some of the efforts undertaken by Deutsche Telekom under the leadership of Rene Obermann after his ascent to the CEO position in that organisation. The case illustrates the challenges associated with resistance to adaptive change, management of expectations of organisational members from their leaders, and the psychological challenges of leading necessary, but unpopular, change efforts under the conditions of pressure from organisational stakeholders, who consciously or unconsciously attempt to divert the change-oriented leader from pushing the organisation forward. The case serves as fruitful ground for exploration of the theory of adaptive change as put forward by Heifetz & Linsky (2002), Heifetz, Grashow, & Linsky (2009a, 2009b), discussion of the dangers of leading (Heifetz & Linsky, 2002), and psychological challenges of leading (Kets de Vries, Korotov, & Florent-Treacy, 2007).


Adaptive change; Role of leadership; Communication of change; Resistance of change; Leadership and public relations; Change leadership


The events covered by this item took place in 2007-2008.

Geographical setting


Featured company

Company name:
Deutsche Telekom

Featured protagonist

  • RenĂ© Obermann (male), CEO

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Awards, prizes & competitions

2011 - ecch best selling case
2013 - ecch Case Awards - category winner

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