Leading, Influencing and Managing Change based on the novel 1984 by George Orwell

Seminar Paper, 2006

18 Pages, Grade: 1,0



(I) Introduction

(II) Summary of 1984

(III) Comparing the general situation of 1984 with 1989

(IV) Analysis of the change initiatives in 1984 vs. 1989
(a) Understanding and recognizing change: the appreciation stage
(b) Preparing change: the influence stage
(c) Implementing change: the control stage

(V) Conclusion


“Wir sind das Volk!“1

Leipzig, (East-)Germany, October 16, 1989

(I) Introduction

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has" Margaret Mead once stated. Her statement exactly expresses why the peaceful revolution of 1989 in former East Germany was successful in not only changing the political system from totalitarian socialism into a real democracy but also re-uniting West- and East Germany: the people overcame the government.

Beyond this, it also explains why Winston Smith, the main character and rebel in George Orwell’s novel 1984 failed in the battle against the totalitarian regime under which he lived: he was not the “people” and only part of a group of two. Consequently, the goal of this term paper is to develop implications for leading change based on my readings.

First of all, I will give a summary of the novel 1984 written by George Orwell. In the second part of this paper, I will draw a comparison between the scenario of 1984 and the real world example of former East Germany in 19892 to underline the applicability of the leader- ship implications given later. After this distinction, I will analyze the different leadership styles of the key characters Winston Smith (rebel) and O’Brien (the system) in 1984 as well as of Reverent Christian Führer (the rebel) in 1989 who initiated indirectly over a time frame of six to nine years the peaceful revolution in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR)3. As for the counterrevolution in the GDR, I will point out briefly how the system as a whole tried to prevent the collapse of the nation. This paper ends with a conclusion.

(II) Summary of 1984

George Orwell warns society (the reader) in his novel 1984 of the false belief “that everyone must become a slave to the government in order to have an orderly society. However, that would be at the expense of the freedom of the people.” (source: summary- central.tripod.com). To illustrate this message, George Orwell creates the world of Oceania, which constitutes a totalitarian superpower that rules its people using censorship and pure terror. The plot of the story, in which Winston Smith is the leading character, is as follows4:

“In 1984, Winston Smith lives in London which is part of the country Oceania. The world is divided into three countries: Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. Oceania, and both of the others, is a totalitarian society led by Big Brother [“The Party”] which censors everyone’s behavior, even their thoughts. Winston is a man in grave danger for the simple reason that his memory still functions: he knows the Party's official image of the world is a fluid fiction. He knows the Party controls the people by feeding them lies and narrowing their imaginations through a process of bewilderment and brutalization that alienates each individual from his fellows and deprives him of every liberating human pursuit from reasoned inquiry to sexual passion. Winston is disgusted with his oppressed life and secretly longs to join the fabled Brotherhood, a supposed group of underground rebels intending on overthrowing the government. Winston meets Julia and they secretly fall in love and have an affair, which is considered a crime. One day, while walking home, Winston encounters O’Brien, an inner party member, who gives Winston his address. Winston had exchanged glances with O’Brien before and had […] the impression that O’Brien was a member of the Brotherhood. Since Julia hated the party as much as Winston did, they went to O’Brien’s house together where they were introduced into the Brotherhood. However, O’Brien turns out to be a faithful member of the Inner-Party who runs Oceania5. Over seven years therefore O’Brien had been cleverly setting up a trap for Winston. As Winston and Julia are arrested, they are sent to the Ministry of Love which is a rehabilitation center for criminals accused of thoughtcrime. There, Winston […] is tortured until his beliefs coincided with those of the Party.” (source: summarycentral.tripod.com) […] At the point when he comes to fully obey Big Brother, he is killed: “We do no merely destroy our enemies; we change them. […] We make him one of ourselves before we kill him.” (Orwell 1949, 252, 254).

In this analysis, chapter four of this paper will point out where and how Winston Smith made a mistake in trying to take part in leading the revolution against the totalitarian regime of Oceania.

(III) Comparing the general situation of 1984 with 1989

In the following table, I am comparing the scenarios of 1984 and 1989 to underline the similarities as a basis for the validity of the leadership implications. I have chosen examples from three key areas: (1) the economy (the system), (2) society (the people) and (3) politics/government (the leading group).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

In consequence, there are some major similarities between6 Orwell’s scenario of 1984 and the real-world situation of the GDR in 1989 (and before) according to this table. However, there is also a key difference between both systems when it comes to the degree of self-sufficientness / openness. And this has a major impact on successfully leading change in these systems.

As for Oceania, the party manages extraordinarily well to present only one single source of information to its citizens (Orwell 1949: 43) and is also economically completely independent from the other two regions in the world (Orwell 1949: 185-186). It therefore can be considered to be a closed system. However, as for the former GDR, the system was semi- open although the government intended to have it as closed as in Oceania (e.g. Berlin Wall, “death” defense line - illegally trying to cross the boarder meant execution). As for the flow of information, it was forbidden to watch TV-stations from West-Germany. However, people would still do it if they had access to it when they lived close to the boarder. In this matter, the former East German government had not the technological capability to block the access to external sources of information as in the world of Oceania. Moreover, East Germany was not self-sufficient and depended on imports (e.g.: coffee or bananas).

Therefore, the Western World impacted the reality individuals perceived in former East Germany which then gave them the possibility to create awareness for the relative injustice they were experiencing compared to West-Germany / “the West” - the so-called free society.

(IV) Analysis of the change initiatives in 1984 vs. 1989

Simply “leading change” does not mean automatically achieving one’s goal; it takes quite an effort and understanding of various dynamics (consciously or subconsciously) as depicted in the AIC-Model (Appreciation - Influence - Control - Model) by Elisabeth B. Davis and Bill Smith (2005/2006). The overall philosophy of this model is to come to understand the “power” which is involved in leading change. According to the AIC-model therefore, change is a continuous (Weick/Quinn 1999: 377-378) three step process:

(1) Appreciation - relating to the overall system: understanding the dynamics
(2) Influence - relation to the components of the system: preparing change
(3) Control - directing resources to attain the purpose: change

I have consequently segmented this analysis into three key steps which are aligned with the AIC-model.


1 Translation into English: “We are the people!” meaning “We constitute this nation!”

2 I will refer to this situation as “1989” throughout this paper.

3 Infos on the former GDR is drawn from www.wikipedia.org/.de - for details: see reference list.

4 As the focus of this paper is not to write a summary of the book 1984 but the analysis of “change leadership”, I am quoting summaries from http://summarycentral.tripod.com/1984.htm as well as www.amazon.com.

5 Oceania is a hierachical society in which the inner-party members are on top (~5% of the population), outerparty members second (~15% of the population: Winston is a member of this group - simply the educated group of followers) and the proles at the bottom (~80% of the society) (Orwell 1949: 202-204).

6 All information on the former GDR is based on my own knowledge (having grown up in Germany) as well as information drawn from www.wikipedia.org/.de (“DDR”)

Excerpt out of 18 pages


Leading, Influencing and Managing Change based on the novel 1984 by George Orwell
The George Washington University  (Dept. of Organizational Sciences)
Change Mangement
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
457 KB
Goal of the Paper: - learning how to lead Organizational Change from fictional (1984) and non-fictional situations (1989-GDR) - analysis of various leadership styles (comparing the styles/situation of the GDR in 1989 and the situation in the book 1984) - creating an understanding for cultural and contextual backgrounds in leading organizational change
Leading, Influencing, Managing, Change, George, Orwell, Change, Mangement
Quote paper
Thomas Lagner (Author), 2006, Leading, Influencing and Managing Change based on the novel 1984 by George Orwell, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/62148


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