There are two schools of thought about how a new leader should accept the mantle of a new post.
Course One: Swift, dramatic action that undeniably signals change. A new sheriff is in town.
Course Two, the converse: A low and slow approach –– take time to gather information, listen to many constituencies, make thoughtful plans before acting. Change comes in due time.
Which is the right course?
When you assume a new leadership role, taking precipitous action quickly could draw dramatic attention. But it could also be exceedingly foolish.
Likewise, you probably don’t want to merely bless the status quo by keeping everything as it was before you settled your bottom into the seat of power. If you go week after week without adjusting anything, confidence can slide as doubt creeps in: What value are you adding?
One way to get the best of both approaches: Ask everyone you come in contact with these three questions:
1. What are three things we should be very proud of as an organization, and why?
2. What are three things you’d change around here if you were me, and why?
3. What are three capabilities we have as an organization that are under-developed or under-utilized, and what should we do about that?
As for the answers to Question #2: Get some more perspective. Seek the thinking of numerous people.
Encourage them to tell you honestly why those seemingly clunky or irrelevant processes and procedures exist. Surely they made sense at the time they were created. Might there be something relevant for you to consider or learn before summarily dropping the axe on the process that’s fallen out of favor?
Sometimes, as the new boss, you get lobbied hard by many people to take swift and dramatic action.
Even when there seems to be a consensus, you owe it to yourself and to the organization to make sure that you understand the basis of the decision you’re making, not just that it’s popular.
You owe it to yourself and the future of the organization to understand the potential consequnces of the decisive action you take in haste. Once you make the executive decree to swiftly and dramatically kill Project Q because just about everyone thinks it’s a bad idea, it’s then going to be very hard to resurrect Project Q –– even when you later come to understand that the project was quite strategically important even if poorly implemented.
Woops, maybe I was a bit hasty, doesn’t inspire confidence or allegiance.
Striking just the right note as a new leader, or one conferred with larger responsibilities, means striking a chord of boldness and reserve; drama and diligence; change and preservation.
Leading often means juggling paradox.