Changes in leadership don’t always happen seamlessly—or amicably. As is evident with the imminent transfer of leadership from President Obama to President-Elect Donald Trump, many factors influence how smoothly (or not) a change in authority will happen.
Whether you’re taking over running a business or handing over the reins to your responsibilities to someone else, expect some bumps in the road. But be careful not to become a source of agitation and dissent through the process. This recent presidential election, which has been simultaneously entertaining and frustrating at times, can teach us some valuable lessons about what to do and what not to do during a leadership transition.
Lessons Learned From Obama and Trump: The Dos And Don’ts Of Changing Leaders
- Don’t undermine the capabilities of either the incoming or outgoing leader.
If you’re the new boss in town, bad-mouthing the outgoing person in charge won’t sit well with those loyal to their incumbent leader. And if you’re the one passing the baton, lack of confidence in the new leader will create distrust and distract employees from performing to their potential. To minimize the stress your team may already be feeling over the change, resist the impulse to undercut the qualities and strengths of one another
- Don’t expect everyone to be enamored with the change.
While some of your staff members might be excited about the new era ahead, you can bet others will be anxious, annoyed, or angry—possibly all three. Prepare to bear the brunt of their harsh criticism whether you’re the new leader or the one leaving your post.
- Don’t underestimate the power of words.
I saw a quote online that really resonates with me, “Words are free. It’s how you use them that may cost you.” Keep this in mind as you navigate the challenges of handing over or accepting leadership responsibilities. Through this recent presidential election, we’ve seen how choosing and using words reactively can create animosity and negativity. Before speaking and before writing, pause to think about your words and choose them carefully before you share them with business colleagues, employees, vendors, customers, and the public at large.
- Do show enthusiasm for continued progress toward common goals.
Find points of agreement where you and the other leader can demonstrate unity. Sure, you may not see eye to eye about plenty of things related to how the business should be run, but now isn’t the time to dwell on that. Your employees need to have some sense of consistency and common ground.
- Do provide/accept information and insight to make the transition fluid.
As the outgoing leader, be cooperative by openly sharing essential information with the new leader so she can more adeptly step into your shoes. As the new leader, be open and receptive to the insight the outgoing leader has to share. Put ego aside and realize your predecessor has knowledge and experience that can help you lead more effectively.
Your Top Priority As A Leader
Both outgoing and incoming leaders have one thing in common: a job to do! Pointing fingers, making snarky remarks, and stirring up drama will only distract you from doing right by those who work in your business and those who do business with your company. If you keep that in mind through every step of the process, the transfer of leadership will go much more smoothly.
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