WHEN Singapore’s newest expressway, the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE), opened to motorists travelling from the east and west to the downtown area, many drivers experienced a fair bit of congestion, confusion and frustration for the first two days.

Organisations have a parallel situation. When leadership transitions occur, resulting in new leaders and the charting of new directions, teams tend to be confused and productivity decreases, as it takes some time to get used to the transition.
To minimise the frustration that staff have to face when there are leadership changes, leaders should avoid the following behaviours:

MANIPULATIVE

When thrust into a leadership position for the first time in their careers, new leaders tend to exercise excessive control over their teams in an attempt to ensure that all goes well.

Determined to prove their mettle to superiors and subordinates alike, these leaders tend to micro-manage every person on their team.

While feelings of nervousness and excitement are natural when entrusted with new responsibilities, newly minted leaders must be extra-cautious not to let their fear of failure or zeal to achieve lead to the manipulation of their teams.

During a period of leadership transition, leaders need to realise that their teams are similarly nervous at the change in leadership style and direction, and they will tend to take things more slowly to observe the new leadership.

A manipulative or over-zealous new leader creates a negative first impression and staff may become wary of him.

COCKY

One of the worst mistakes a new leader can make is to appear arrogant and put on airs. His promotion recognises his stellar performance in the past, but it is not an excuse to be overbearing.

This problem will be greater if the new leader was promoted from within an existing team. Cockiness is a surefire way to burn bridges, destroy friendships and demotivate the remaining team members.

They are already feeling a little envious and disappointed at having been passed over for the promotion, so the new leader — and former peer — must display sensitivity and humility in order to win the hearts of his team.

EXACTING

When the leadership mantle is passed to the new boss, his primary key performance indicator will be the results of the projects under his charge.

While team dynamics and other soft skills are important factors, these intangible attributes cannot be quantified, like project performance, which is typically measurable.

As such, new leaders are driven to prove their ability to achieve good results.

While the excitement and passion to get things done right is commendable, new leaders must be careful not to be too exacting or demanding.

They need to understand that as new leaders, they are setting the precedent for subsequent projects and team performance.

Being exacting to the point of being unreasonable not only challenges the team who are in transition and adapting to the new leadership style, but also results in a lack of motivation for future projects.

Team members will feel demoralised if their demanding leader does not appreciate their efforts or sets unrealistic targets, resulting in a decline in performance.

To summarise, new leaders need to be wary of the MCE qualities that may cause a slowdown in team performance and unhappiness over the leadership transition. As long as leaders avoid being manipulative, cocky or too exacting, teams can expect to pick up speed and achieve the desired organisational goals.

Article by Looi Qin En, chief brand and marketing strategist of Training Edge International. He has successfully transformed businesses through his expertise. For more information, e-mail Qin.En@trainingedgeasia.com or visit www.trainingedgeasia.com