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Successful Leadership Transitions: How To Make Them Happen

leadership-transitionsEnsuring that leaders are put in situations where they’ll succeed is not an easy task. It’s so challenging that it needed more than one blog; the first installment focused on why leadership transitions often fail, and this one discusses what you can do to increase your odds of success when bringing new leaders into your organization.

The process of working toward successful leadership transitions certainly begins with the hiring or promotion process, as individual abilities and experience are scrutinized to ensure people are placed in roles where they’ll flourish. However, making the right hire or the right promotion is only the start; every organization must address the following four key factors to provide leaders with the best chance for both short- and long-term success:

  • Role clarity. Leaders must understand the scope of their position, its relationship to others in the organization and how their success will be measured. This is the most important thing an organization can do to support successful leadership transitions, especially since having this clarity will funnel down through the hierarchy, and other employees will realize how their roles and responsibilities fit into the overall company dynamic.
  • Communication. Many companies fail to proactively publicize the nature and scope of leadership decisions, in particular when they include internal promotions. This lack of transparency can cause significant problems, especially with the new leader’s former peers, so it’s critical to put “all cards on the table” whenever an organizational change involving management occurs.
  • Empowerment. Leaders need to be aware of the extent of their power and where it fits into the chain of command. It’s critical to establish clear boundaries and empower new leaders to make decisions commensurate with their position—and this means eliminating micromanagement and ensuring non-responsiveness by direct reports isn’t tolerated, as both those things will quickly undermine leaders’ authority and dilute their ability to earn respect.
  • Identification of potentially negative interpersonal dynamics. It’s an unfortunate fact that leaders can be undone if there are unaddressed issues involving personalities within their teams or the company as a whole. To counteract this, it’s important to acknowledge the organization’s players and politics, be upfront about potential human pitfalls, and provide ongoing support from upper management.

When leaders are armed with not only the appropriate technical and leadership skills, but also the full support of upper management in the form of role clarity, communication, empowerment, and addressing organizational interpersonal dynamics, they have all the tools they need to be successful. That’s good news for the leader in question as well as the company, since successful leadership transitions are imperative to long-term sustainability.

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