How a new leader steps into a leadership role sets the tone for their new role. It can be a pastor stepping into a new church or a new role or another leadership change. How that transition is negotiated is a critical issue. It takes wisdom and discernment to transition well. A friend who is making such a transition asked me recently what I learned when I stepped into my current role about a decade ago. This was my advice.

One. Only make critical changes in the first year. It is usually wise to take a year to understand what is going on, who the players are and why things are the way they are. In other words, don't act too fast. The caveat is that there may be a critical change that needs to happen in order to move forward. Be willing to make critical changes but also be willing to be patient with others.

Two: Listen to everyone but think grey. Listening and understanding current staff and stakeholders is very important. However, existing staff and leaders will inevitably lobby a new leader for their point of view. Don't commit yourself but think grey where you listen, evaluate but keep an open mind.

Three: Share your vision for the future on a regular basis and dialogue with staff, leadership and constituencies. The operative words are share and dialogue. This is a time to share one's heart and to listen to others. Ultimately as a new leader you need to have a vision for the future. At the same time you need buy in for that vision so it is through dialogue that you together come to clarity.

Four: Watch for the various agendas but don't get roped into them. All organizations have agendas within them. Some are good and some are problematic. As a new leader you want to understand those agendas but you also don't want to get roped into them. Understanding the territory is critical but thinking grey leaves your options open.

Five: Have some trusted people you can talk to. Perspective is critical and wise leaders have people around them to help clarify issues, ask questions and give counsel. Transitional times have many pitfalls and one wants to avoid them if possible. 

Six: Start looking for the people you need around you who can help you move the organization toward the future. New leaders usually need some new people around them who resonate with where they desire to go. The sooner you can get these key other leaders in place the better off you are. This is about developing a team around you who you trust, who are in alignment with you and who will work with you to synergistically get to where you need to go.

Seven: Evaluate how your predecessor did their job and how you want to do your job. Just because your predecessor did their job a certain way does not mean that you need to. That is important because they were not you and those you report to need to understand that you will be focusing on what you believe to be most important and it may well be different from the leader you follow.

Eight: Focus on the essential issues and not the many expectations that others will have for you. New leaders need to decide what is important and focus there. They also need to resist the pressure to do things as they were done or to meet the many expectations of those around them. This is where it is important to be self defining about what is important to you.

Nine: Evaluate all key staff under you for fit, competency and alignment. Even though it is wise not to make changes too quickly this is a time to evaluate key staff, get to know them and determine future fit. Had I gone with my gut coming into the organization I lead I would have made some wrong calls regarding staff (those who I thought who would not fit who did and those who I thought would fit and didn't). Taking the time to understand key staff will keep you from making assumptions that may be problematic.

Ten: Develop key relationships. All good leadership comes down to relationships because the best leadership is that of influence and influence is a matter of trust and relationship. Take the time before making significant changes to develop the needed relationships. It is the coinage you will need to make the changes.

Eleven: Always run process. Change is inevitable with new leadership but many new leaders hurt themselves badly when they don't do the above before those changes or run good process in making changes. Change without process significantly empties the bank of trust and that is a dangerous thing for a new leader who has not been in place long enough to fill the bank.

Twelve: Be reflective, prayerful and discerning about people, plans, agendas and timing. Usually time is on your side. Relax, watch, listen and talk with Jesus before acting.

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

  • Jan 28, 2015
  • Category: News
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