Often leaders have the benefit of growing and maturing with an organization, a team, a department, or a business. They have, through years of hard work, proven their credibility by establishing their personal integrity and expertise. Yet many, if not most, leaders do not have this luxury. Leaders are transferred, moved, hired, and brought on board under a variety of scenarios and must oversee a new team and learn all of its strengths, weaknesses, and challenges in a relatively short period of time.
Your challenge in leading as a newcomer is to move ahead without alienating everyone and not creating unnecessary obstacles. Yes, you want them to know that you are in charge, but you also want to keep them on your side.
1. Don't Overreact
Newcomer leaders may be tempted to make their stamp by making quick expansive moves right out of the gate. Reorganization and forward movement are good, but as a new leader stepping into a preexisting framework you need to take great care, especially if making revolutionary moves.
New leaders should make adjustments but never overreact. That is, don't abandon old processes and methods without careful consideration and study. There may be a good reason why things are done in a certain way.
Overreacting is a strategy that leaders choose because they may believe that any action is progress and that even if they make a wrong move, they can quickly correct it by remaining active. Team members who work on projects led by overreactive leaders are likely to burn out or become frustrated by the frenetic action and stunted progress of the initiative.
Team members shouldn't have to spend too much time asking--and answering--the question, "Where are we going next?"
As a new leader, you have to be careful when you push the panic button. Sure, sometimes, it's necessary, but you can't run around every day frantically saying the sky is falling--you'll kill momentum.
2. Provide Resources Wisely
Newcomers may be tempted to cut extravagant spending to send a message that ensures that the team is no longer pampered and wasteful. They will want to impose the well-worn "lean-and-mean" model of leadership to get things done. This managerial behavior is predicated on the belief that holding back resources and challenging people to improvise and innovate will sustain momentum. The problem with this perspective is that holding back resources can also kill momentum.
On the other hand, new leaders may want to provide abundant resources to build goodwill and gain praise, but they can't keep writing blank checks forever.
It is a new leader's responsibility to make sure a group's access to resources makes them hungry, but not discouraged.
As a new leader, you need to find that point where resource limitation does not jeopardize momentum, but enhances and inspires novel solutions, without squandering time, technology, or support.
3. Reinvigorate the Vision
For a team who has seen leaders come and go, they may sense that the organization or business is moving at a glacier's pace--slowly and without direction. New leaders need to build a new coalition mindset and periodically remind people what the long-term objective is all about.
The reinvigoration reminder reengages people emotionally and reestablishes their sense of purpose and sense of vision. It re-familiarizes them with the very things that got them involved in the initiative originally--things they may have forgotten. To a certain degree, it is the charismatic, idealistic appeal. It is an effort to appeal to a sense of pride and to rally the troops.
Don't be afraid to light a fire under the vision, and remind people why they are there.
4. Build Credibility
Despite having been appointed a new leader to take over a team or project, such leaders must remember that credibility is something that others confer onto them; it's not something that can be solicited. Without it, a new leader will not be able to move forward.
New leaders may enjoy some credibility by the virtue that they were brought on to oversee the team, but as they move down the road and deal with the practical aspects of getting things done, their credibility may wear thin and questions may arise.
The team might well ask: Does he have the expertise to go the distance? Does she have the authority to make important decisions? Credibility is a quickly spent commodity.
To assure that you sustain the coalition mindset, you must illustrate your knowledge of the business, demonstrate your strategic expertise, and exhibit your personal integrity on a day-to-day basis.
As a newcomer, make sure that you don't confuse the short-term game with the long-term game. No matter how much pressure you feel to take immediate action, you must keep in mind that your forward movement will be dependent on your understanding of the context. To master the learning curve, you have to proceed with caution. You have to keep in mind that not every ship is the Titanic. You aren't necessarily going to run into an iceberg. You have to make time to learn the controls, and find out which levers to pull to make sure that your team works effectively and productively.