When it's your turn to take over and step in to your predecessor's leadership shoes, what is your focus? Is it to lead the way that's easiest for you? Or, is it to lead the way the team or organization needs to be led?
I recently observed a leadership transition that's been in the works for over 24 months. The new leader is smart, capable, and charismatic. However, during his first official stakeholder's event, he made his first noticeable leadership gaffe. He forgot a golden rule highly effective leaders follow: Leadership is about them; not you.
During the stakeholder's event, several contentious issues were raised that had implications on the organization's strategic direction and culture. However, because raising contentious issues is the purpose of the stakeholder's event, the organization has put in place a process for professionally and respectfully airing them, debating them, and resolving them. The process can be frustrating because -- honestly it's a process. However, it works incredibly well.
The problem with processes, as you well know, is it requires discipline to learn them well enough so you can use them effectively and comfortably. It's easier to brush them aside as being bureaucratic or restricting. The test of an effective process is: Does it cause efficiency in movement through a series of actions that results in a desired outcome? If not, the process isn't right. If so, the process is sound even if it's not liked by everyone.
Though he's participated in the process for the past 24 months, the new leader hasn't been responsible for initiating and managing the process. As a result, during the stakeholder's event, he was unprepared to effectively implement the process. He tried tepidly. When he didn't initiate it correctly, he jokingly stated he found the process confusing and cumbersome. As a result, veteran stakeholders were frustrated by the failure to implement the process to effectively address their issues. The new stakeholders were frustrated by the apparent lack of a process to address their issues. And the new leader, was frustrated because everyone was getting frustrated.
Though he's smart, capable, and charismatic, the new leader lost credibility. Granted, it was his first time officially leading the process. However, it was apparent to all, he hadn't taken the time learn or been given the opportunity to gain the necessary experience prior to this event. To regain his leadership credibility, the new leader now needs to learn this process and other leader-driven or initiated actions so well, he can implement them almost without thought. He needs to be consistently prepared to lead his team and future stakeholder events the way they need to be led. And that may not be the way he likes to lead.