Rotational Leadership Programmes (RLPs) are becoming the cornerstone of corporate talent development. However, being a newly rotated individual has its inherent set of opportunities and challenges. Meeting high expectations and earning the team’s respect are just two of them.

Says former deputy minister of British Columbia Ken Dobell: “Leadership cannot be taught, but can be developed.” The recent rise in RLPs indicates its use by many companies to develop talent and leadership.

When new leaders are rotated into a new role, what can they expect? Comparisons are inevitable, which means leaders will be measured against the benchmark set by their predecessors. Should the leader reset everything or conform to all that was passed down? What is required to succeed?

Whether rotation is imminent or not, these are, or should be, real concerns if the leader is to be effective. Nothing beats psycho-social preparedness when it comes to team management.

Objectivity over extreme leadership

If you are a leader being rotated, the temptation is to quickly make an impact in your new post, demonstrate your authority, or even start setting up your own “dynasty”. However, you must not throw caution to the wind. Heralding a revolution when you are rotated into a new role can have negative impact on the harmony of the team. As people are naturally resistant to change, you need to tread with care.

Should you then keep everything status quo? In the short run, people will be placated as they will be doing what they have always been doing. However, in the long term, respect will not be earned, and not trying to do things differently or better will affect how you are assessed on your ability to lead and excel.

In the end, how you decide to lead depends on what you are looking to achieve. And bearing in mind that your performance in each and every role is being monitored and measured, here are certain survival tips to consider when being rotated into a new leadership role.

Be objective

Change management is a topic that has inspired much literature and discussion in recent decades. Change for the sake of changing is not encouraged. Treat being rotated as a chance to review what has been working well and how you could take it to the next level, or to optimise areas that have not been working as well. You must be clear on how the change will benefit the people involved, and the positive impact it will create.

Then, whether you plan to completely overhaul how the team works or just implement a minor tweak, creating majority buy-in is key.

Engage the people

Be in constant dialogue with the people in the team. It facilities access to the collective experience from the team, and is the most effective way to understand what worked well under the previous regime. After all, it is not hard to listen to and respect a sincere boss who truly believes in improving processes and the environment.

Communication could come in the form of informal chats along the hallway or structured sessions and meetings. In totality, it gives your team the opportunity to get to know you and adapt to your leadership style.

Concurrently, don’t forget to proactively involve your mentor. Engage the mentor in discussions; share the challenges you face; and, together, formulate plausible solutions. You will glean the most effective feedback and develop the best means to handle issues this way.

Understand the big picture

Be proactive. From understanding how the department functions and the role it plays in the bigger corporate picture, to how each team member works — all these will give you a deeper appreciation in a relatively new environment. Take the time to review work processes, hold team-wide meetings or even engage higher management to help transform the team for the better. Not only will this further increase your experience and knowledge of your new environment, your hard work and dedication will also earn you the respect of the team.

Help your successor

As you rotate out of your posting, spare a thought for your successor and provide a succinct handover by writing out clearly what you have implemented and the rationale behind the changes. Be contactable to your successor so the transition for all will be seamless.

“Twenty years ago,” says Mr Jeff Sonnenfeld, associate dean at Yale School of Organisation and Management, “only 7 per cent of firms hired CEOs from the outside. Now it’s 50 per cent.”

Finding leaders and grooming talent within the fold is becoming a necessity. The RLP is one of the key management tools that helps to identify individuals who have the drive and resourcefulness to succeed amid challenges.