Leadership during Transition Vs Transitional Leadership

Change is as inevitable reality as is life. No leader shall lead forever. It is their legacy that people remember. The lives of organisations are more aptly tasted during the transition of leadership. Leadership can be a strategic move or otherwise. In a strategic move, leadership transition is a process where power, authority, and responsibility are tendered from one individual to another in the organization.

Normally it is a transparent process identifying an organization’s changing needs, objectively evaluating candidates, and then giving the required longitude and latitude to operate in a way that all leaders might aspire to new levels of achievements and thus taking the organisation to the next level of performance.

Therefore, people keep a keen eye on the leadership transition in the organisation with keen interest. This is more so when the leader(s) are chosen not from within the organisation. As the first rays of the sun, the early days of leading an organisation are always a reflection of things in the store for the organisation. Perhaps, therefore the saying “well began is half done”.

In the initial phases of such transition, the leaders are more susceptible to scrutiny not only for their capability in leading the organisation but also the materialistic aspect of leadership demonstrated by the leader is keenly watched. Thus, in contemporary business organizations, managing the transition involves vicissitudes of both the micro and macro environment of the organization. Transition in leadership can be a result of either intentional succession planning or may be induced by forces of micro and macro factors which are unforeseen.

Transition at strategic positions has the potential to profoundly affect and define an organization’s direction and success for years – perhaps a generation! It is therefore observed thoughtfully and a well- executed transition process places the organization on a solid course towards a prosperous future thus making leadership transition more a philosophy than an event. Organizations can be tactical in the way they fill vacancies in a leadership team. There may be several questions like what is the organization’s distinctive competence? What makes it better than others at doing that? By scrutinizing the external environment with its purpose,outputs, and stakeholders that care about the organization, it can link vacant leadership roles to the strategy or identify new roles.

The ideal process of leadership transition follows eight stages where; first, a decision to seek a change in leadership is taken by the board members. This might be a planned or unplanned decision and depends on the circumstances. Second, the design of the search and selection process is done. Third, the challenges faced by organization are analyzed. The next stage is where the organization needs to strategically assess leadership needs and job qualifications. After assessing the need, a search for a prospective leader is carried out. The sixth stage is about initial selection and screening from the pool of candidates. Seventh, the interviews take place and the final selection of the leader is done. Eighth and the final stage is about the transition process where a leader takes the charge of the organization and works at setting down in the internal organization environment.

Another important aspect of leadership in such a transition period is the tenure of the leader. More defined the tenure of the leader, more is his hold in the organisation right from the word go. In the absence of a defined tenue, it is incumbent on the leader in the position to transact the business of leadership in a more august manner to avoid any further problems arising out of the succession. Or thought alternatively, a leader in transition must initiate the succession planning as soon as possible if there is a need and communicate to everyone concerned in th organisation. Such an act not only makes the leader in transition gain the respect of the people in organisation but also people in the organisation committed to the purpose for which the leader is asked to take over during the transition. Putting the right people in right place is another way of managing during the transition.

Depending on the size of the organisation leaders during the transition are expected to investigate the antecedents of the key persons towards managing the matters during which the transition has occurred. By assessing the antecedents of the employee in the organisation, theleader gets an idea about the persons to be entrusted with work. The risk and trap that most of the leaders fall into during the transition are relying heavily on the leadership below the top leader of the organisation. This particular person, either for the ambition of own or sulking because of not given with the rein of leadership, in most of the cases will provide not so desirable advice for the organisation and/or at times settles score with other employees of the organisation by speaking wrong about them and thus giving a not so accurate impression to the leader in transition about the people in the organisation. The leaders during transition need to be mindful of these circumstances. It is expected from such a leader during the transition to speak to the people directly and as far as possible in the office of the respective employees either individually or department/function-wise to gain their confidence. Mere assurance to the employees about the transparent approach adopted will not cut any ice in the organization.

Another crucial aspect on which the leaders are scrutinized during transition is the physical setting in which they operate. Too many changes to the existing setting for aesthetics or operational purpose at the beginning always raises eyebrows. Rather, an inclusive approach towards existing facilities and maximum utilization of these facilities brings laurels for the leader and thus prevents the leader from being alienated in the organisation. Shall there be a compulsion or an urgent necessity for the same; the leader at such times is expected to operate from what is known as the camp office and deliver on the assigned task during the transition to earn a place both materially and organisationally.New leaders, to begin with, have the neutral desire to make a unique contribution to the organization and commonly feel the need to set themselves apart from a previous leader. As a result, the new leader often appears to take a critical stance towards current organizational processes and policies.

The new leader might, through attempts to demonstrate an ability to contribute, suggest every issue that arises.The peoples’ experience of every new leader is diverse and unique. Over the years, people have developed a stable relationship with the previous leader and the new leader needs to break the ice and convince the people in the organisation. The people, particularly those who lack confidence about their contribution, may feel insecure and anxious.Under these circumstances, those people have a strong requirement to be heard by the new leader and to be assured that the leader has paid attention to and understood their perspective irrespective of the outcome. During the process of leadership transition, there should not be a detachment in the thought process of leaders and people as the distance in the thought process would lead to conflict.

The transition in leadership is a major change in the organization and people contemplate that this should be a gradual process, whereas the leader would like to implement the processes more rapidly. Hence, it creates room for conflicts to arise. To curb this problem, there should be clear communication and the development of trust among both parties. Four areas of interaction between leaders and people are critical for success during a transition. First,partnering in the decision-making process; where the people think that a new leader should include them in the decision-making process and make it more participatory, as the new leader is novel to the environment and the people elaborately know the environment.Second, focusing on the successful implementation of new directions; where the new leader gives new directions to the organization ensuring that the people also understand it and the leader implements new changes in the organization after communicating it to the people. Third, challenging the new leader as appropriate for the organization; this is the area where after implementation of changes if the people feel that the results are not up to the mark then they can challenge the new leader. Here, the new leader must convince the people that the benefits of change are for the long and not the short term.

The leader has the challenge to prove himself as an apt, appropriate, and fit leader for the organization at every point in time. Fourth, understanding and providing the unique support that the new leader; where now the leader is settled down in the environment and people also like to follow the leader. The challenges may not only arise for organization but the new leader as well. While each stakeholder naturally focuses on the organization’s success, time needs to be spent on how the new relationships will develop and mature into effective working relationships. Focusing on effective decision-making and implementation protocols is essential. A leader needs to set oneself in the organization and match one’s mindset with the organization environment. A big challenge for the leader is the need to win the hearts of people and negotiate success. They need to build teams and create coalitions. Everything depends on the response of people and on the extent to which the people accept the authority of a leader. A leader and people in an organization can avoid certain difficulties in the transition process by working on the interactions like participative decision making, successful implementation of new directions, challenge the leader whether it is apt and suitable for organization or not, and last, by providing support to the leader. In a way leaders during the transition are remembered not for their actions as they settled but for the actions in the initial days. After all, the reluctance of the past can be overcome with a change in leadership but not the hypocrisy of history, and needless to mention, every leader comes with a history of self.