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Don't Lose Our New Leaders

leadership transition Apr 14, 2022

- By Sophie Pinkoski

When the pandemic began, leaders worldwide scrambled to keep their organizations afloat.

Leading through an unprecedented crisis wasn’t anything that could be taught or prepared for – there was no guidebook or training manual, after all.

Thus, CEOs learned on the go, adapting to an incredibly fast-paced and unpredictable rate of change. Many who had intended on retiring or leaving their roles before the pandemic even chose to stay to maintain as much stability within their organization as possible.  

More than two years into the pandemic, those delayed departures have started to come to an end, making way for a new generation of leaders who can move forward with what their predecessors have learned. With a strong support team on their side, they have a real opportunity for guidance through the pandemic and beyond. Yet the introduction of new CEOs at the height of the pandemic has led to a particular snag: while organizations prioritized rapid adaptation to uncertain change, leadership training fell by the wayside. According to a DDI Leadership Transitions report surveying 15,000 leaders internationally, 48% of new leaders received training in 2021, compared to 61% prior to the pandemic. 

Boards and transition teams are more equipped now to prepare their new leaders. Doing so will prevent CEOs from falling through the cracks and becoming what some are calling “the lost generation of leaders”. 

Lack of appropriate training during leadership transition fosters a high stress situation that can quickly lead to burnout. 

But what do leaders need most in terms of support? 

Assessment  it’s important to identify your new CEO’s strengths and where they can continue to grow in order to find the most appropriate development opportunities that fit their unique needs. This addresses how their skill gaps can be filled. By familiarizing them with regular feedback, the new leader can get into a habit of introspection and self-assessment to strive for constant improvement and growth. 

No prolonged leadership transition – The longer you wait to train your new leader throughout their transition, the more behind they’re likely to fall. Putting off necessary training creates a stressful environment full of mounting anxiety and dread at the face of the unknown. The DDI report suggests a three month leadership transition period; 66% of leaders felt competent in their role after an active three month transition, as opposed to 57% of leaders who experienced a full one year transition. Identify their needs to prepare them for the role ahead as soon as possible so they can fully immerse themselves in the most efficient, meaningful, and productive way. 

A confidence boost  Starting a new role is overwhelming for anyone. It takes time and patience to settle in and understand how an organization works.

Your new CEO will experience a period where they feel less capable as a leader while they’re still getting their bearings.

Give them solid examples of what success looks like within your organization, alongside attainable, realistic goals to rebuild their confidence. With these in mind, they can measure their progress more effectively and build a forward momentum. 

Failure as a learning opportunity – If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that things are going to go wrong occasionally. What we can do is take these moments of failure and learn from them.

Allow your new leader to approach their mistakes from  a place of empathy and curiosity so they can identify ways to not only improve, but innovate. 

Failure is an invitation to experiment, and an accountable CEO unafraid of trial and error will ultimately make a more resilient leader in the long run. 

Mentorship – The best way to prepare a new leader for the new world reality is to introduce them to leaders who have been through the worst of it already. Seasoned CEOs have stories to tell of how they managed their leadership responsibilities in times of crisis.

Lived perspectives offer a realistic view of what new leaders can expect and options for how best to proceed. 

As we welcome this new generation of leaders, CEOs deserve support now more than ever. Unlike the start of the pandemic, we’re equipped with the tools to empower these new CEOs to transition into their role with confidence no matter the circumstance. 


Further Reading: 

Stressful Transitions are Setting Leaders Up for Failure, According to New DDI Study, PR Newswire 

Not So Smooth Leadership Transitions Could Cause Big Losses, Association for Talent Development 

Effective Leadership Development for the New Normal, People Management 

“Redefining Leadership: How do leaders need to change for the new normal?” Leadership in a Post-Covid-19 World Guide, CEMS 





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