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  • Nitya Rao-Perera

How Companies Typically Fail Newly Promoted Leaders - And How These Transitions Can Be Better Manage

Transition of top level leadership can be both exciting and energising, while also posing a serious challenge to the organization and the individual. An article shared by mckinsey.com, states, Executive transitions are typically high-stakes, high-tension events: when asked to rank life’s challenges in order of difficulty, the top one is “making a transition at work”—ahead of bereavement, divorce, and health issues.


This shows the high stakes involved in leadership transitions, from a cerebral and emotional perspective. Every executive transition creates uncertainty, and a newly promoted leader can feel unprepared for increased job complexity. As the figure below shows, the cost of poor leadership transitions is very high.



In my experience coaching senior executives and start up founders, I have found that most newly-appointed leaders receive little or no training for the new role. Companies expect them to achieve results from the get-go, but without the requisite training or support, this can be a daunting task. Rather than providing leaders with an executive coach if the expected goals are not achieved, organisations may be best off looking at investing in new leaders by providing them coaching and other support as they move into their new roles.


This is equally true for leaders who are hired from outside or from within the organisation. Both internal and externally appointed leaders need to learn new skills and different types of contextual knowledge that are crucial for them to succeed. Organisational support during a transition is typically the exception, with studies revealing alarming statistics about how new CEOs fail to meet their objectives and/or leave within the first 18 months.


The Mckinsey article further states, “most organisations approach new leadership transitions in the same way many organisations approach mergers and acquisitions: as one-off events. This siloed approach relies heavily on leaders to self-manage and self-navigate without much structured support but only ad hoc help .”


I started working with Trezelene Chan in 2018 as she transitioned into a more senior role within Kantar and she says, having a coach allowed her to have more clarity of thought, gain better insights about her strengths, and where to focus to achieve her goals. She also notes that having someone to bounce ideas off is “energising”—this is important, as coaching provides a safe space for leaders to discuss and work through their challenges.

New leaders can best be supported by their companies, ideally by a transition team and with a transition plan in place. New leaders also need other avenues for support, such as executive coaching, to help them gain confidence in their new roles, and avoid subjective feelings of failure in a new and complex environment. Working with a coach can help new leaders clarify their thoughts, practice difficult conversations, and navigate other aspects of job complexity, such as office politics, newer demands, and new stakeholders.


Another interesting client i had the good fortune to work with is Rohit Mallela. Rohit and I worked together when he transitioned into a newly created leadership role at Ambient Digital Indonesia.


He says:

With all the mental stressors that come with transitioning into leadership roles in a fast-paced work environment, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed. A professional coach can tailor their advice to your personal aspirations along with your professional aspirations to unlock your true potential. The methodology in which a professional coach can repackage your own thoughts into a successful strategy or approach is undeniably the best way to grow as a professional.


Leadership transitions are extraordinary opportunities for organisations to invest in their leaders. It is also a great opportunity for leaders to invest in themselves and take stock of their current challenges, skills and competencies, and decision making capabilities, and drive desired outcomes through influence and support of their followers and teams. As an experienced transition coach, I eschew the notion of a 90 or 100 day time frame, and urge leaders to focus on deeply examining their challenges at an individual, organization and business level and be clear about what they want to do.

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