Updated: Nov 2, 2022
In recent times in the United Kingdom, we have seen two new leaders emerge. Firstly the new Prime Minister and secondly the new King, proclaimed upon the sad death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Image by PA Media (Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-62866447)
Throughout our lives, we will experience seasons when new leaders are appointed in our nation, our workplaces and our churches. These can be difficult times for us to come to terms with, as we seek to navigate the emotions of loss and change along with concern about the future.
We personally may not be appointed as a national leader but we may be appointed as ‘the new leader’ in our workplace, community or church setting. In taking up the role, we need to be aware of how our staff or members may be feeling; even as we grappled with the complexities and challenges of the task of taking on a new leadership role.
As I reflected in these matters, I identified seven things, that the new leader should do:.
In stepping into a role as leader, it’s so important that we honour the leader that has gone before us. Honouring those who have gone before releases favour for what is yet to come.
In the Bible, we read how Elisha served and honoured Elijah before he was given a double portion of the anointing that rested upon Elijah.
As a new leader don’t be too quick to move on. Take time to honour what has been achieved, before you stepped into the role.
When we try to eliminate the past, the past often has a way of derailing our future.
The value of what the departed leader did shouldn’t be lost in the new leader’s rush to do things their way.
It will serve you well when you step in as a ‘new leader’ to:
Listen – to the accounts of staff or members recall of the work of the leader who has gone before you.
Record – all the stories so that you can review them at a later date.
Celebrate – with the staff or members the contribution the former leader made.
Learn – from the positive, and less positive, accounts of the leader that you have replaced.
The success of the new leader will, in no small part, be determined by the extent to which they adopt the wise practices of the former leader.
The man or women who previously fulfilled the role will have had many attributes you can learn from:
Character – identify aspects of their character that helped them lead well.
Competency – identify skills that they had and seek to develop them in yourself or others in your team.
Chemistry – identify how they engaged with staff, members and the wider public. Then seek to adopt the good practices they modelled.
As a new leader, we must learn to respect the customs, practices and ways that have been imbedded in the culture of the organisation. They may not be our choosing but we need to recognise that culture only changes over time, and only after respect has been shown for the people and the culture.
Staff or community / church members will need time to develop respect for the new leader. The pace at which this happens will be set by the pace at which the new leader shows respect for the culture of the organisation and people they have been invited to lead.
Respect is a two-way street; respect of the new leader for those they lead and respect of those they lead for the new leader.
Ultimately, respect is the bedrock on which progress can be made.
It takes time, perhaps months or even years for a new leader to earn the trust of those they lead. Whilst respect can develop relatively quickly, trust can only develop as staff / members establish that they can trust the new leader to create a positive future that they can contribute to and benefit from.
For each of us who have, and will step in to roles as ‘the new leader’, we need to remember that:
Trust cannot be assumed
Trust cannot be bought
Trust must be earned
6. Set The Right Pace
You cannot rush change. Change is best made over time. As it has been often said: ‘You cannot turn a big ship quickly’.
The pace of change adopted by a new leader can either sink their leadership hopes or cause their leadership to soar to new levels.
Stepping into a role as ‘the new leader’, you need to do three things that will help you set the right pace:
Stabilise – leadership change can be a destabilising time for a business, a community or church. Consequently, the new leader needs to allow time for things to stabilise, enabling everyone to adjust to the ‘new normal’
Galvanise – slow, initial changes may need to occur as part of the stabilisation process but then the new leader needs to allow time for these to galvanise i.e. creating space for people to adapt to the initial changes and see that these changes are key to protecting the wellbeing and future of the organisation they are part of.
Energise – the pace at which larger scale change can occur will be determined by the time if takes for the new leader to energise the staff / members around his or her vision for the future of the workplace, community or church.
7. Show Grace
A new leader will need to exercise grace, towards people grieving the loss of their predecessor, and will need to receive grace to enable them to fulfil the role now entrusted to them.
We are all human; none of us particularly desire change, although some of us can adapt to change quicker than others. The new leader will need to allow a period of extended grace so that people can adjust to their arrival.
It will serve us all well to remember that grace is a gift that is received but must also a gift that must be given.
And finally …
May God bless each of us as we navigate change and may ‘the new leaders’ know God’s wisdom and God’s grace.
Founder of Christian’s Who Lead