5 Guarantees of Your First Year in Senior Leadership

The way you begin a leadership position often determines the success you will have in it. 

That’s such a strong, but important word for new leaders to understand. Having begun new leadership positions many times in my career, I have learned the opening days always impact the effectiveness I have had as a leader. 

And, to top it off, there are things that will naturally happen in the first year of a new position. In fact, I can pretty much offer guarantees about your first year as a new senior leader. They have been true for me every time. 

Here are 5 Guarantees for Your First Year of Senior Leadership:

It won’t be all you thought it would be. 

There will be surprises. Things won’t be exactly as you were told by the people who recruited/hired you. That’s not always their fault. Most haven’t really sit in the position before. I like to say, “You can’t see what I see until you sit where I sit.” That’s true of those who brought you into the position. 

Plus, I have come to believe search committees, teams, boards, recruiters, etc. are better at “selling” the job than they are at pointing out the problems you will face. I’m not saying they are misleading (although some have been in my experience), but they have a position to fill. They paint things in the most positive way possible. It takes a while, but you’ll figure out what they didn’t share with you in the interview process. 

There will be quiet supporters and loud objectors. 

And everyone in between. I’ve learned that some of the people who support my leadership the most simply didn’t take the time to tell me until something happened and they felt the need to do so. But there will be people who have no problem letting you know what they don’t agree with. Some will even let you know with in ALL CAPS. (Those are the best – sarcastically speaking.) 

But most people are just waiting for good leadership. They will go whichever way the vision is well cast. My best advice is to find a few positive influencers and lead with their help and encouragement.

Some things will be harder to change than others. 

And it will take time to discover those things. Many times we enter a new position with newcomer enthusiasm. We have big ideas and the momentum is often present in the beginning to pursue them. Over time the real DNA of the organization that you didn’t understand becomes reality. There will be culturally unwritten rules you never knew and sacred cows, which get in the way of your ideas.

This doesn’t mean you can’t change these, but you will need to be aware of them and how to navigate through them. This always involves asking good questions and listening before you attempt change.

You’ll be misunderstood. 

People don’t yet know you. They may like you, because you’re new, but they don’t have a full grasp of how you’re wired, what you are most passionate about, the things that make you smile or your pet peeves. (And we all have some.)

If something is not clear to people, they will make up their own clarity. They will believe what they want to believe. This makes communication in the first year even more important. You have to continually help people discover how you think and what you are thinking. 

You’ll question yourself. 

I don’t know many senior leaders, especially in the early days of a leadership position, who don’t have occasions where they wonder if they have what it takes to do all they need or want to do. That’s perfectly normal. And if you don’t know this on the front end you’ll think something is wrong with you.

My guess is you wouldn’t have the position if you weren’t qualified. 

Make sure you have people who can speak into your life and remind you of your calling and your abilities. And, of course, as faith leaders we are ultimately to be reliant on God’s strength through us more than our own abilities. 

I could add a final one. You’ll need help. I have had so many transitions in my leadership career. I would love to offer my consulting/coaching services to help you transition and begin well in a new leadership position. Contact me for details and I’ll share more later on this new offering. 

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Ron Edmondson

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