The Transition Step 1: Taking Stock

In a previous blog about Tuning your Leadership Purposefully, the first step in developing your ideal leadership identity in your new role is to take stock of strengths and challenges, as well as pinpoint where you are in the psychological transition. This week we will focus on taking stock of strengths and challenges.

You may wonder why such a mundane and straightforward activity warrants an entire blog. Making a list of strengths and weaknesses is quite pedestrian and can be done with a fair amount of ease based on self-knowledge, and a personality or dominant behaviour assessment. The brave can even add insights from a 360º assessment pulling in insights from others on how you are experienced and perceived by colleagues, peers, and bosses.

A core part of transitioning into a new role is to start by transitioning out of your previous role. Failing to leave the previous role behind you mentally and experientially means that you will bring all the habits and work styles along which will lead to repeating the previous experience with new people and a new location.

Some of your previous knowledge and skills may be usable in the new role, and others may need to adjust or become more polished to become an effective leader for this specific role and time.

So, the questions to ask yourself could look like this:

List strengths, weaknesses, skills, and unique knowledgeWhat value would you give it? 1 – very weak 10 – expertTo what extent was it relevant in your last role? 1 – Not at all 10 – CrucialTo what extent will is it relevant in your new role? Not at all10 – CrucialAction plan
Vision creation648Developing and communicating a vision in my new role is a key expectation. I need to work with my coach on sharpening this skill.  
Micro Managing1081At this level, the leaders reporting to me will not easily tolerate micromanaging. The new company’s culture is very transparent and collegial.  I need to work on effective delegation and setting clear expectations.

This exercise is necessary at the outset, and every quarter as the new leader unfolds into the role and learns more about the company culture and the unwritten rules within the organization.

The pitfalls of not going to this length to transition:

  1. Dragging baggage: We oftentimes observe new leaders, within the first 6 months of the new role, referring to moments of learning and heroism from the previous role. These stories are almost told in a manner to anchor their credibility and value as the new leader in the room. These “validating anecdotes” do little to validate the leader most of the time. It quite often relates to a cultural or organizational ecosystem unique to the previous role, with little or no bearing on the present.
  2. Missing learning and development opportunities: Holding on torealities of the past, rather than making a conscious effort to clear the slate, re-evaluate and reframe a new leadership identity may render the leader blind to new opportunities, the reality of the present and opportunities to grow and exercise latent skills.
  3. Maintaining the hero that came in from the cold status: The knight on a white horse, the impervious newcomer with all the answers is normally the new leader who blazes in and uses ‘old wisdom and common sense” to clean up and rescue the new organization from itself. They often miss the mark, act as schoolteachers and disengage the employees.


“Jack Griffin began his tenure as CEO of Time Inc. in September 2010 and became unpopular throughout the company almost immediately. His management style was described as “brusque” and unsuited to the company culture. Griffin made frequent and unwelcome references to his religion and made sexist remarks while addressing the entire company at town hall meetings.

Jeffrey Bewkes, CEO of the parent company, Time Warner, quickly concluded that it wasn’t working out. “Although Jack is an extremely accomplished executive, I concluded that his leadership style and approach did not mesh with Time Inc. and Time Warner,” Bewkes told the New York Times. Griffen left the company a mere five months after his start date.

The stage of the transition is for exploring and being genuinely curious and humble about what you bring that will make a difference (in other words what is relevant in your toolbox), what gaps you have and what are the unwritten rules, cultural norms, and virtues of the new organization. Being new is the perfect platform for asking deep questions, and “not knowing”.