The new boss syndrome
Organisational change is the continuous constant to survive and sustain in this volatile market. Obsolete ideologies are required to be reviewed and revised. The managers need to leverage on the senior management to endorse this view. In a takeover, migration, merger, business model changes, growth/expansion, new extensions/ start-up of new business line results in a challenging phase for most organisations. This change management phase generally results in leadership change. The vision of the team/ organisation is not only cultivated but also needs close monitored execution. One of the quintessential factors is competent leader who can not only perceive the desired outcome but manage the culture change. The leadership attributes and style that is required for effective organisational change is relatively unexplored topic or substantiated conclusions are moderately meek. The two variables are mutually exclusive and yet have serious implications attached. Though a direct correlation cannot be established as it’s circumstantial but a lot of areas overlap.
Nishchae Suri – partner and head, people and change advisory at KPMG India shares his views. He suggests, ‘leadership changes has several implications:
- Change in associated cultural identity: In line with social constructivism, groups construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artefacts with shared meanings. This sub-culture is largely leader-driven and is immediately impacted by leadership change, requiring employees to massively recalibrate ways of working;
- Change in strategy and requisite skill sets: Organisational vision, including strategies around products, services and markets, may altogether change. Consequently, teams and employees may need to unlearn and relearn skillsets. In fact, leadership change may provide a good opportunity to change to preferred strategy and culture, if required;
- Transitional scepticism: As an unconscious response, shareholders, employees and customers may display an automatic temporary scepticism, causing possible financial impact – a narrative that emanates from the sense-making of uncertainty. This is often time-limiting and experienced to a higher degree, if succession planning was inadequate or if the incumbent had a personality-driven leadership approach;
- Financial fluctuations: New leaders have the ability to impact financials – positively or negatively, depending on how they fare during transitional scepticism.
Organisations adopt different approaches with leadership changes some prefer to do it over night while some adopt a slow transition process. The industry can also influence and dictate this decision. The start-ups and quick paced sectors like E commerce, retail, online platforms, IT/ITES need a catalyst to manoeuvre the newly formed eco system and channelise the efforts towards the planned vision so they do it with immediate effect. On the other hand, established organisations often prefer to phase out an individual with smooth handover of responsibilities. Either ways the implications are involved and need cautious handling. Dr. Shalini Sarin, SVP HR BG professional, CSR & BoP leader, Philips Lighting shares her views on the key attributes desirable for effective leadership:
- Vision: Great leaders have vision. They can not only see into the future, but also help define a purpose and mission towards their ambition. They have a clear, exciting idea of where they are going and what they are trying to accomplish and are able to mobilise people towards the compelling purpose.
- Courage: “Courage is rightly considered the foremost of the virtues, for upon it, all others depend.” – Winston Churchill. The quality of courage means that a leader is willing to take risks in the achievement of goals with no assurance of success. It is also the ability for a leader to hold others and self accountable. Challenge assumptions, take difficult business and people decisions and be fearless of adversity or failure.
- Integrity: complete honesty in everything they do, both internally and externally. The core of integrity is truthfulness which is the foundation quality of the trust that is necessary for the success of any business. Integrity is a widely used word with several connotations, it encompasses integrity of character, mind and actions. If they are not in alignment, there is dissonance and mistrust.
- Humility: Great leaders are strong and decisive yet humble with self-confidence and self-awareness to recognise the value of others; without feeling threatened. Humility is a virtue that is difficult to acquire.
- Focus: On the needs of the company and the situation; on results, on what must be achieved by themselves, by others, and by the company.
- Agility: The speed in the foresight to spot the change on the horizon, anticipate what comes next, and take lead in developing future strategies to address evolving market demands.
- Authenticity: Leaders need to create clarity—articulating a vision and painting a picture of the future. To build trust and confidence with their teams, they need to be genuine in their communications. With change creating anxiety and confusion, leaders must bring a level of certainty about the path forward and foster a sense of purpose for their teams.
To have a sustained success model of a complex phenomenon like organisational change, the leader effectiveness is very important. The model requires to be executed at different levels with customised methodology. Academic research and white papers have one thing in common with regards to leadership changes and its implications, the rationale of change.
Not all reforms work well for the organisation. Sometimes the changes, be it people, processes, technology, ideology tend to backfire. Especially in case of senior management or people occupying influential roles in the company can have a dominoes effect or worse even a snow ball effect on the team. Joseph Devasia, MD, Antal International India suggests on the negative implications/ attributes of leadership changes, “Changes are made to leadership to bring in more effectiveness and productivity within a company, however at times this backfires. Challenges such as conflict and confusion over new procedures, new roles and responsibilities are bound to exist. Employees are the ones most apprehensive about changes in senior leadership. Salary cuts, loss of benefits, downgrading in job position, relocation, layoffs and reductions in workforce are among the biggest fears that employees face when such changes occur. Some organisational changes require major restructuring which also means an extensive life change for employees. All of these can be devastating changes to employees; and they end up spending more time focusing on battling the changes taking place in the workplace and focusing less on doing the daily tasks associated with their jobs. This leads to a reduced level of efficiency and output among staff, which can affect the company’s performance. In such situations, leaders need to be sure about their plan to imbibe these changes within the organisation smoothly without making it too complicated for their employees.”
A continuous positive affirmation and communication at all levels and across available business platforms can help a smooth transition. Leadership changes affect the culture and culture in turn affects the leadership. So cumulatively the two attributes affect the employees’ performance. Complete synergy between leader’s vision and organisational goals will ensure the impact is tempered. The organisation would flourish with the right guidance of an experienced mind of the leader.
This story appeared in Times Ascent on March 01, 2016 and quoted Joseph Devasia, Managing Director, Antal International, India