Those who are replacing poor or controversial leaders have a special challenge.
Every leader who fills a top role previously held by someone else faces the same challenge: They must deal with the outgoing leader’s accomplishments and shortcomings. When your predecessor was successful, you will be judged against their accomplishments.
But when replacing a poor or controversial leader, you may have to take accountability for your predecessor’s mistakes, while simultaneously creating a new vision for the organization. Poor leadership can damage an institution, whether it’s a government or a Fortune 500 company, and often a new leader must take aggressive action in order to save the enterprise — while avoiding throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Finally, all of this must also be done within an organization that may be both skeptical and exhausted.
Managing all of these tensions can be challenging for even the most seasoned leaders. As an executive coach and consultant, I’ve helped dozens of leaders navigate this transition over the past two decades. I’ve seen leaders rise to the occasion, but I’ve also seen struggles, even when leaders come with the best intentions. With a few basic strategies, it’s possible to not only help a company move on from poor leadership, but to transform the organization and help everyone within it reach their potential.
1. Acknowledge the contributions of the previous leader …
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When replacing a poor or controversial leader, you may have to take accountability for your predecessor’s mistakes, while simultaneously creating a new vision for the organization.”— Trium Group Founder and CEO Andrew Blum