Legacy chal­lenge

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

HOW do you fol­low a leg­end? It has some­times been said that Steve Jobs, newly re­tired CEO of Ap­ple, is an in­dus­trial icon who is an in­ven­tor, in­no­va­tor and com­put­ing pioneer. He is con­sid­ered an out­right ge­nius, and a leg­end whose legacy in the com­put­ing world cov­ers over 30 years. Af­ter all, what would we do with­out the iPad, the iPhone, the iPod and the Mac? I am sure you will agree that his im­pact will be felt for many, many years to come. The chal­lenge for the new leader, then, is how do you fol­low such a leg­end?

The chal­lenge of re­plac­ing legacy lead­ers is that peo­ple at­tribute qual­i­ties and char­ac­ter­is­tics that of­ten stretch the truth. Those in­di­vid­u­als ex­ter­nal to the or­ga­ni­za­tion will re­call writ­ten ar­ti­cles or me­dia clips and will thus more eas­ily re­mem­ber traits such as in­ter­per­sonal skills, charm, cred­i­bil­ity, pa­tience or com­pas­sion.

Those in­ter­nal to the or­ga­ni­za­tion will fo­cus on the legacy leader’s sense of courage, abil­ity to take risks, their in­tel­li­gence and their ac­com­plish­ments. They tend to over­look any fail­ings such as poor em­ployee re­la­tions, mi­cro­man­age­ment or the fact their cher­ished leader was in­deed a bully.

As you can imag­ine, then, ar­riv­ing as a new or­ga­ni­za­tional leader fol­low­ing a much beloved leg­end will be a sub­stan­tial chal­lenge for any­one. In fact, that old adage of your first 100 days will surely take on new mean­ing. The fol­low­ing tips will as­sist you through this next ven­ture of your ca­reer.

Know your­self well, in­side and out. Know what mo­ti­vates you; iden­tify your vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and de­fine your emo­tional strengths in prepa­ra­tion to deal with the loss and change your em­ploy­ees will ex­pe­ri­ence.

Re­view and be cog­nizant of the wide range of po­lit­i­cal skills you will need; as­sess your own po­lit­i­cal acu­ity and de­ter­mine if you will need as­sis­tance in this area.

Re­view your val­ues and per­sonal stan­dards, your at­ti­tude, your at­ten­tive­ness to peo­ple is­sues and de­ter­mine how to lever­age these traits to cre­ate suc­cess and de­velop your own legacy.

Un­der­stand the change man­age­ment steps. First, you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence the chal­lenges of early stage tran­si­tion; then, you’ll im­merse your­self in the is­sues of the or­ga­ni­za­tion; next, you’ll be­gin to see a vi­sion for re­shap­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion and fi­nally, you will be­gin to in­sti­tu­tion­al­ize your changes. Keep in mind these tran­si­tions re­quire any­where from one to three years of time.

There is no one set of rules for mak­ing the tran­si­tion into a lead­er­ship po­si­tion, let alone one va­cated by a legacy leader. The key is to eval­u­ate the lay of the land as quickly as pos­si­ble. Where are the or­ga­ni­za­tional strengths? Where are the chal­lenges? Is there a good bal­ance of skills on your se­nior team? De­ter­mine how to take ad­van­tage of this mix to help move the or­ga­ni­za­tion for­ward.

Make your­self vis­i­ble to em­ploy­ees. They want to know who you are and what you stand for. They want to know how you com­pare to their former leader as they seek a sense of se­cu­rity. Meet and talk with em­ploy­ees. In­ter­view them, hold fo­cus groups. Get at the pulse of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Make your­self vis­i­ble to cus­tomers and clients. Reach out and visit key stake­hold­ers. Cir­cu­late news­let­ters, use your web­site. Be proac­tive. Man­age by walk­ing around.

Adapt an open door pol­icy, be ap­proach­able. In­vite in­put and dis­cus­sion. Lis­ten and learn from those who have the ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise. En­cour­age your em­ploy­ees, em­power them to make de­ci­sions as well as rec­om­men­da­tions.

Con­tinue build­ing per­sonal cred­i­bil­ity by con­fronting la­tent prob­lems that former lead­ers may have been re­luc­tant to ad­dress; take cor­rec­tive ac­tion be­fore these chal­lenges ex­plode into big­ger, high-pro­file is­sues. De­velop and com­mu­ni­cate short-term plans in blocks of three months as you move to­ward longer term strate­gic goals. Fo­cus on key short-term wins and vis­i­ble im­prove­ments. Cre­ate a cel­e­bra­tory event to mark suc­cess and build em­ployee en­gage­ment. Take more time to de­velop a com­pelling vi­sion and a long-term strate­gic plan; in­volve lead­ers and em­ploy­ees as a means to build a shared vi­sion that in turn cre­ates or­ga­ni­za­tional en­ergy and mo­men­tum. Con­duct a thor­ough as­sess­ment of your team re­sources; iden­tify in­di­vid­u­als who demon­strate the en­ergy, drive, en­thu­si­asm and com­mit­ment to your goals. In­volve these in­di­vid­u­als in spe­cial change projects. Build a coali­tion of sup­port­ers by pro­mot­ing these in­di­vid­u­als to roles that will help lever­age sup­port for your goals.

Be a role model for courage and tenac­ity. Make the tough per­son­nel calls when nec­es­sary. Move peo­ple out of the or­ga­ni­za­tion who don’t sup­port the vi­sion and need to move along in their ca­reer. Iden­tify and source out new can­di­dates who will help move your or­ga­ni­za­tion for­ward.

Zero in on car­ing for peo­ple. En­gage your em­ploy­ees in con­tin­u­ous learn­ing and fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing strong teams. Legacy lead­ers en­cour­age ev­ery­one to be­come a leader; show ap­pre­ci­a­tion and build each per­son’s self-con­fi­dence.

As the or­ga­ni­za­tional leader, your role is to make those crit­i­cal de­ci­sions. At the same time, you need to know when you need to ask for help. Legacy lead­ers are not afraid to reach out to oth­ers for ad­vice; they value learn­ing from oth­ers.

Your role is to con­tin­u­ally read­just and re­fo­cus to en­sure you are not only meet­ing mar­ket needs but also tak­ing ad­van­tage of op­por­tu­ni­ties that will cat­a­pult you and your or­ga­ni­za­tion to fur­ther suc­cess.

It’s been said that lead­er­ship is not so much about “leav­ing” a legacy but rather it is all about “liv­ing” a legacy. This means that lead­ers, es­pe­cially those fol­low­ing a high-pro­file legacy leader in an or­ga­ni­za­tion need to think about cre­at­ing their own lead­er­ship legacy right from the start. In other words, your legacy story is be­ing shaped and writ­ten ev­ery day as you go about your ca­reer. It’s a liv­ing story, not some­thing to be scripted a few months prior to re­tire­ment. Nor is your legacy a story that can be rewrit­ten af­ter the fact.

There­fore, as you en­ter the do­main of a legacy leader, it is crit­i­cal that you bring your own legacy build­ing strat­egy. The tips and guide­lines shared above will as­sist you to be­come that dis­tin­guished legacy leader.

Steve Jobs

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