3 minute read 19 Jul 2021
Man and woman talking while walking up the stairs

How to navigate leadership transitions

By Amy Walters

Manager, EY Lane4, EY Professional Services Limited

Specialises in human performance with a focus on applied psychology. Translates academic thinking and research into practical solutions for business. Visiting lecturer at Bath University.

Contributors
3 minute read 19 Jul 2021
Related topics Workforce

Adapting your skills and identity are essential when stepping up to the mark as a new leader.

In brief
  • Effective leadership is characterised by a high degree of adaptability and undergoing the process of identifying with a new role.
  • There are specific behaviour changes that leaders need to make during leadership transitions.
  • Leaders and organisations must create a culture where leadership transitions can happen successfully.

In a study of 3,500 UK professionals, it was highlighted that 73% suffer from leadership and management skill deficits, and a third of managers lack the essential soft skills for effective leadership.1 Evidently, there is a leadership skills lag facing many leaders and those transitioning into leadership roles.  To successfully navigate a promotion into leadership, individuals will have to undergo leadership transitions.

Leadership transitions are so much more than the competencies and technicalities of the role. Successfully stepping up to the mark as a new leader is about how you adapt your skills and identity. This is the shift of one’s identity and behaviours to better align with the new nature of their role. In other words, the psychological factor and changes are of paramount importance.The key focus should not lie purely on what the results look like, but more so on the change process required.3

Register to download the full report: Leadership transitions (PDF, 2.6MB)

Four transitions that will enable leaders to achieve their full potential:

Our leadership transitions report outlines four key transitions that newly promoted leaders need to make to be successful.

  • From personal growth to the growth of others: Stepping into a leadership role means that your performance is dependent on the degree to which you can achieve goals through enabling others, while simultaneously holding accountability for the outcome. This will require you to empower and delegate effectively, to bring out the potential of your reports, as opposed to benchmarking your success purely on your performance.
  • From specialist to integrator: Becoming a leader requires you to stretch yourself to integrate collective knowledge from many different functions to achieve results, as opposed to relying on just the specialist knowledge from your area of expertise. Becoming an integrator makes you more interdependent. This brings with it a greater need for connections and social skills; relationships must actively be built and maintained, not left only to be resurrected when needed. 
  • From directive to diplomatic: The notion of influencing without authority is crucial here; the new-found authority that comes with the job must be handled carefully, and persuasion skills honed. Leaders must also learn to deal with the various polarities and dilemmas, particularly in the form of conflict management and compromise.
  • From tactical to strategic: A shift from focusing on the details to appreciating the bigger picture is imperative for new leaders. Effective performance as a leader will be reliant on your ability to engage in long-term strategic thinking. Instead of fixating on the details of everyday procedural problems, leaders must put the organisation at the core of what they do and find ways to sustain growth and completive advantages in the marketplace.

Creating a culture where successful leadership transitions happen

Making the jump to an esteemed leader does not happen overnight.  Leaders will have to develop high levels of self-awareness to recognise their areas of strength and weakness. This will enable them to identify where they need to deliberately practice, refine and exercise the skills to make the transitions happen.  

It is also crucial that organisations help leaders to thrive by breaking down some of the obstacles that get in the way of high performance when shifting into a new leadership role. Our whitepaper highlights some best practices that organisations can use to create development plans to support transitioning leaders.

Summary

Successful leadership transitions are the foundations of high-performing leaders.  New leaders, and those that have been promoted to senior levels of leadership, should seek to understand the psychological shifts required in their thinking, behaviours and identity in order to be better aligned to their new role. Organisations must value leadership development, disassemble the barriers that new leaders can face as well as create a culture where leaders can prosper.

About this article

By Amy Walters

Manager, EY Lane4, EY Professional Services Limited

Specialises in human performance with a focus on applied psychology. Translates academic thinking and research into practical solutions for business. Visiting lecturer at Bath University.

Contributors
Related topics Workforce