Every business eventually must weather the storm of leadership change. The manner in which new leaders approach their role will set the tone for their tenure and affect every stakeholder for years to come.
Whether a rookie or seasoned veteran, a startup or established business, taking over the role of leader in an organization will test the most talented and most capable people, and can easily bring the strongest to their knees.
If you find yourself with the privilege of stepping into a leadership role, I have some advice.
It’s common for new leaders to feel the need to demonstrate their wisdom and quickly achieve a major win by solving some long-standing problem. Resist that temptation.
According to Frank Otto, managing principal of NexLevelIT, “If the issues were simple, they would have solved them before you got there.” Be patient and don’t overreach. Give yourself time to get a feel for the culture and the people.
Recognize that you’re going to be in the spotlight for some time. Staff, customers, and vendors, along with every other stakeholder, will be watching you closely.
Don’t take yourself too seriously and remember to have fun. If you can’t enjoy being the leader, it will be difficult for others to enjoy themselves. Be a role model and focus on the positives.
Your organization will have many different personalities, each carrying a long history, which has a way of making change difficult. Forcing staff to adapt to your style is rarely the right approach, and it’s rarely effective.
“Leadership change is usually not greeted warmly, but the way in which an organization responds depends on many factors, including alignment of each follower’s organizational beliefs, values and vision with those of the leader,” said Steve Pon, who recently graduated from Drexel University with a master’s in business administration.
The better approach is to connect with staffers early and work on internal communications. Listen to them often and work on developing trust. Be clear about your values and stick to them to create confidence.
On the other hand, don’t be too set in your ways or locked into solutions that have worked in previous companies. Every leadership role is unique and flexibility is critical. What helped a leader be successful in one situation can undermine his or her success in the next.
And don’t be afraid to say you don’t know or that you made a mistake. Nobody can possibly know everything, especially when joining a new organization.
And nobody can have the right answers all the time. As the leader, your job is to tease all the wisdom and experience from your staff to help you make the best decisions.
In today’s fast paced world, leadership is all about understanding change — knowing when change is good, as well as knowing when the status quo is better. The best leaders are those that can adjust and adapt from one style to another.
If you think it’s easy to define what it means to be a good leader, think again. Academics, politicians and business icons all have tried to define good leadership for thousands of years. Unfortunately, their failures have proven only that good leadership cannot be defined in absolute terms. Good leadership is situational, a moving target that defies formula.
Good leaders must trust themselves and have confidence in their decisions — two particularly difficult objectives. Avoiding mistakes is not the measure of a good leader but the manner in which you handle mistakes is.