The Paradox of Leadership

The moment a person (anyone: yes, even you) assumes a new leadership position, a study in paradox begins to play out: to be successful in your transition you must focus on learning about the new organization and your role, but the expectation is to quickly take charge, be productive and demonstrate your worth. You should build alliances while not being seen as overly political or creating favorites. You must implement needed changes to improve the organization, but not devalue what already exists, showing respect for the history and culture. You must draw on past experience, but don't let your past blind you to new realities. And, the number one paradox for a newly placed leader -- act confident, be decisive and demonstrate your authority, but seek input and feedback and go slowly to build credibility. How newly placed leaders deal with these contradictory expectations largely determines their success and failure.

 
 

The moment a person (anyone: yes, even you) assumes a new leadership position, a study in paradox begins to play out: to be successful in your transition you must focus on learning about the new organization and your role, but the expectation is to quickly take charge, be productive and demonstrate your worth. You should build alliances while not being seen as overly political or creating favorites. You must implement needed changes to improve the organization, but not devalue what already exists, showing respect for the history and culture. You must draw on past experience, but don't let your past blind you to new realities. And, the number one paradox for a newly placed leader -- act confident, be decisive and demonstrate your authority, but seek input and feedback and go slowly to build credibility. How newly placed leaders deal with these contradictory expectations largely determines their success and failure.

Your fate in a new leadership role is, for better or worse, typically sealed within your first three months. If you fail to establish a foothold for yourself, it may take 12 to 18 months before you know it, but the organization knows it. You are being observed and evaluated from the moment of your first job interview. From your first day, members of the organization are judging whether or not you ''get it'', and making decisions about the ways they will work to support or undermine your success.

A number of recent studies have identified the success and failure factors for a newly placed leader. The research shows that even the most skilled executives face many difficulties and challenges during the transition and integration phase of a new position. At a minimum they are slowed down by the obstacles and all too many completely fail to successfully adjust to their new situation.

The good news is that there is a process to help newly placed leaders to sidestep the obstacles and move forward faster. This process of transition and integration is called onboarding. The process provides structured support for an extended period, typically four to six months; it is not your typical brief orientation. A well thought out onboarding process provides the tools, resources and support network (i.e. internal ''partners'' and external coach) to ensure that the new executive is in alignment with the organization's expectations and that he/she builds momentum fast.

Onboarding processes are being developed and implemented throughout the corporate business sector. This reality is just now gaining the attention of the credit union industry. With all of the changes in senior leadership positions, credit unions can certainly benefit from a process that helps its new leaders become full contributors faster, better and with fewer destabilizing effects.

 

 

 

June 17, 2003


Comments

 
 
 
  • Great article. We are just "waking up" to the fact that you can't put someone in a position and expect them to perform without some type of guidance. It's about time!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Leaves me wanting to learn more about that "onboarding" process.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Would have liked it even more had there been examples cited.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Good article: A new leaders success depends upon the willingness and cooperation of existing key personnel. Winning them over and gaining their confidence is essential.....after all, great ideas are still just ideas, it takes people to put them into action.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Very good article! I want to learn more about this process and help others in my organization do the same. Thank you for the inspiration.
    Anonymous