Tips for Incoming Leaders in a Succession

blog Apr 08, 2022

If you’re succeeding an outgoing leader, you may already know that the bookshelves lack specific guidance for your situation. Highlighted here are some ideas and thoughts for your consideration.

Don’t expect things to be the same for you as they were for your predecessor. If people seem resistant, try not to take it personally. Realize that it’s a loyalty issue and that some folks just need more time to adjust to change. You can’t expect the same response from people that your predecessor led.

Try thinking of your tenure as a bank account. Any bank account requires deposits. In this case, your stakeholders must make the deposits based on their level of trust in you. Getting that account built up takes time. Your predecessor’s years of deposits into the account enabled him or her to get the desired responses.

Unfortunately, that account was closed when you became the incumbent; you must now establish your own account. In time, your faithful work will yield similar results.

Don’t be quick to make changes for which you lack the necessary relational equity. If you start disassembling everything that preceded you or initiating too many completely new endeavors, it’s going to put everyone into a state of shock. People who are in shock aren’t going to be too keen on making the necessary deposits into your account.

Sometimes, incoming successors make promises, or attempt to cast an organizational vision that’s totally unrealistic, in an effort to get people behind them. Without a relevant track record with their people, they’re going to have a very difficult time.

Incoming leaders must realize that all change is a critique of the past. Even something as seemingly insignificant as painting a wall can be misperceived.

In some cases, new leaders begin taking too many drastic actions. Their people find themselves wondering what was wrong with the way things were and why it is necessary to make so many changes.

It’s always better to start small. Since change that’s imposed is change that’s opposed, focus on building relationships at first. It’s vital relationships that will provide you with the equity you’ll need for successful future efforts. You can make incremental changes, but be sure to balance those endeavors with getting the necessary relational support. Until you do, you may find yourself writing checks that you cannot cash.