IN THE hyper-competitive environment of today, coupled with changing workforce demographics, succession planning and leadership development must become priorities for organisations looking to succeed.

Many organisations are not prepared for the impending manpower shortages and resulting senior leadership gaps, as mature managers and senior leaders exit the workforce, taking their wisdom and experience with them.

Organisations are compelled to fill leadership gaps with younger workers, who lack the right skills and behaviours necessary to take on the full weight of a senior management position and move their companies to the next level.

Without support and guidance, many of these up-and-coming young executives will stumble and the effects will be seen in declining corporate results.

Successfully assuming a new leadership role is more often challenging and daunting — regardless of the amount of experience a leader may have.

It is critical to note that any action taken in the first few months directly impact a leader’s chances of success.

Transitions can be times of both great opportunity and great risk.

Leaders in transition often find the eyes of superiors, colleagues, direct reports and even shareholders firmly fixed on their first moves.

With expectations high and so much at stake, what are the secrets of succeeding and thriving in times of role transition?

And how can junior middle managers step up and successfully transition to leadership roles?

Before delving into any intervention to assist leaders’, organisations need to first understand the specific type of transition these leaders’ are going through, as the challenges they face would differ.

For instance, on-boarding new leaders who have been hired externally to join the organisation confront the need to adapt to new business models and organisational cultures and to build supportive networks of relationships.

The challenge for leaders who are newly promoted to roles (role-to-role transitions) lies in understanding and developing the competencies required to be successful at this next level.

It is important to note that a manager’s success in his previous role does not necessarily equate to success in the current new role. In navigating his way to success in a new role, there are core transitional skills that a leader must develop.

1. Goal-setting and strategy

The old cliché rings true: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.

It is imperative that transitioning leaders identify the right goals, develop a supporting strategy, align the architecture of the organisation and figure out what projects to pursue to secure early wins.

2. Develop emotional intelligence

Leaders at all levels of the organisation must demonstrate a high degree of emotional intelligence in their leadership role.

Emotionally intelligent leaders create an environment of positive morale and higher productivity.

Especially for the leader in transition, there must be sensitivity to team members, subordinates’ needs and an understanding of what motivates them.

3. Build and foster key relationships

The critical skill sets for leaders include relationship management, communication, negotiation and conflict resolution.

Relationships are great sources of leverage. By building credibility with influential players, transitioning leaders are better able to gain agreement on goals and commitment to achieving those goals.

In some instances, working with senior mentors helps the new leader to navigate internal politics.

4. Manage personal outlook and perspective

The process of shifting into a leadership position can be smoother if leaders monitor and manage their outlook and perspective.

Without the right outlook, even veteran leaders will experience serious difficulties and unrest.

The new leader should consider working with a coach who will help him to examine his leadership attitudes, perspective and behavioural patterns and to develop a plan to work on areas that need improvement.

Given the right support, leaders will master their transitions with greater ease and the resulting accelerated performance — coupled with the enthusiasm and high aspirations that are characteristic of the next generation of young managers — will be valuable assets to the organisation.