Growing as a leader can be a tough transition and one that can seem ominous if taken unprepared.

Growing as a leader can be a tough transition and one that can seem ominous if taken unprepared.

In the October 2009 edition of Chief Learning Officer, Michael D. Watkins’ article “The Eight Toughest Transitions for Leaders” outlined the top transitions that most business leaders have to navigate during their career. The transitions are:

  • Promotion
  • Leading former peers
  • Diplomacy (authority versus influence)
  • New organization
  • International move
  • Organizational turnaround
  • Corporate strategy realignment
  • Business portfolio change

Watkins suggests that in order for a leader to transition successfully, that leader must be competent in adapting his personal style and competencies, and focus on the organization’s needs to build a plan for organizational growth.

This past year has brought change to a great many leaders. What changes and transitions did you make in 2009? How would you rate your ability to adapt personally and organizationally?

Looking into this coming year, here are some questions to ponder to help you with your leadership success.

  1. Given your experience and leadership strengths, what do you need to do more of and less of?
  2. What new skills do you need to learn? What is your plan to obtain them?
  3. What adjustments do you need to make with your communications, delegation, decision-making, team-building, and trusted network of advisors?

The quality of the answers to these self-reflective questions is contingent on your level of self-awareness. Some of us are more self-aware of our strengths and weaknesses than others, so I always recommend that, in addition to answering these questions, use at least one other technique:

Leadership assessments such as Hogan Leadership Survey or Observational Feedback can add insight into needed changes. Assessments provide an unbiased view of your behaviors while observational feedback can provide you with information on how individuals view your key competencies as a leader as compared to the organization’s leadership competency model.

Now that you’ve identified the changes you need to make, you need to create a development plan. Creating a solid plan with SMART goals and implementing that plan are critical to leadership because, in the end, unless you actually make the necessary changes success will not be in your future.

This is often the time when I and other executive coaches are asked for assistance. Co-developing the plan with the leader and coaching the leader effectively through the necessary behavioral changes are effective to creating sustainable change.

Using an internal coach is also effective. The advantage to an internal coach is his or her organizational knowledge, while the disadvantage is the potential concerns about confidentiality on the part of the executive being coached. Whatever your choice is, internal or external, coaching will provide you with a systematic and proven method to create long-term change.

So if you are like most leaders, you and your organization have to adapt to the economic changes that have occurred over the last 18 months. Adapting requires changes both personally as well as organizationally. Personal changes first need to be identified by you, others around you, and an assessment tool. Then a development plan should be created and a coach identified to work with you for sustainable change.

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