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Help, what should we do in the ’Leadership Void’?

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When a leader unexpectantly resigns or is asked to leave a ’leadership void’ is created.

And this often leads to a sense of uncertainty and concern, sometimes even fear, as well as a potential drain on knowledge and experience, which an organisation needs.

In the leadership void, unless someone takes charge providing some much needed certainty and reassurance, dissidence and discontent can quickly grow and get out of control.

Leadership Void Plan A

The best plan of action in the leadership void is to have a solid succession plan in place. In fact, all organisations should always have such a plan. Too much dependence on a single leader or a few leaders is irresponsible at best, grossly negligent at worst.

The most successful and powerful leaders are the ones with a good succession plan in place, who are also developing the next person to take over from them. They take pride in developing their successor.

The succession plan then needs to be supported by a strong set of shared values and a clear, healthy culture that helps everyone in the organisatio feel continuously supported and clear on direction and action regardless of the sudden loss of key leaders.

With this solid plan, the organisation (or even country) shows all stakeholders that they are still in charge of the situation, that the organisation is still strong and that stakeholders can trust that their stake is not at risk.

The most successful and powerful leaders are the ones with a good succession plan in place, who are also developing the next person to take over from them. They take pride in developing their successor.

Leadership Void Plan B

If there is no Plan A when leaders leave, the organisation must move very quickly to restore calm, trust and a sense of certainty. All eyes are on them and every moment counts.

Here are some key steps to take for the most senior person that is left:

  • In these times of change the organization needs direction and clear leadership, clearly communicating “this is where we are going, this is the direction”. People need someone to take the lead.
  • Keep in mind that rumours are created in the ’communication void’ (very common when key leaders are no longer around). Don’t collude with that rumour behaviour; if you see it or hear it, stop it. Don’t allow for that communication void to take place – communicate immediately to employees and other key stakeholders. Let them know that despite the leadership drain, it’s still business as usual, and that more information about leadership succession will follow as soon as possible.
  • Behaviours are important at this point. People look to the remaining leader(s) and watch what behaviours they role model. This is a time to think carefully about how you are behaving; work out what are acceptable and helpful behaviours in this time of disruption and what are unacceptable/non-helpful behaviours.

When people recognise that things will indeed be okay, you are creating a confident workforce to support you on the new journey forward.

Conclusion

The leadership void may not have been wanted, it may even be perceived as disastrous, but keep in mind that ”disaster” is only a label for how you experience the situation.

If it has happened, it’s happened – it is a ’fait accompli’ – and the only way forward is to actively look for the opportunities that arise as a result of it. Go look for them, find them, engage people in the process and communicate like you’ve never done before: frequently, confidently – repeating and reassuring people that things will be okay.

When people recognise that things will indeed be okay, you are creating a confident workforce to support you on the new journey forward. Then go ahead and lead it from the front.

About the authors:

Future Leaders Blog - Mandy & elisabetMandy Flint & Elisabet Vinberg Hearn, award-winning authors of ”The Team Formula”.

Their latest book ”Leading Teams – 10 Challenges: 10 Solutions”, published by Financial Times International is a practical tool for building winning teams.

You can download a free chapter of the book here.

Praise for ”Leading Teams: ”This book is a 21st-century guide on how to build a world-class team. I highly recommend it” Steve Siebold, Founder, Mental Toughness University, Florida USA.

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