What role for legacies: (Re) building a horizontal organisational think tank culture

23 August 2018
SERIES Transitioning into a leadership position: notes from the OTT Fellows 8 items

During a leadership transition, the new leader has a lot on his/her plate and not so much time for planning. In optimal circumstances (which I have learned are not often) there is a need for setting aside time for conscious reflection on the implications of becoming a new leader  – especially one that aims to engage all individuals to contribute their best to the joint development of the organisation.

This reflection is needed both on the side of the leader, as well as the staff because the transition is a multilevel process. First, the self-empowerment of the leader in a new position and a corresponding self-empowering of all the staff in the new circumstances. Even in the best case scenario, these expectations need to be communicated and reflected upon – rather than assumed.

The outcome depends on multiple factors, including the culture already dominant in the organisation, which sets the preconditions for the new intervention. If the culture was previously quite hierarchical, empowering of the staff, including the expectations from the leader, will be difficult. Such expectation might be also perceived as unnatural to the members of the organisation. Alternatively, if there was a more horizontal organisation culture in place, the leader might be more hesitant to take on some of the key functions of the new role, afraid that there might be resistance to it.

In any case, the accompanying uncertainty of the new organisational setting need to be acknowledged and each member of the organisation needs to set aside time for reflecting on the expectations and personal dilemmas – jointly and with the new leader.

On the latter, the obligations are in any case abundant, but the assessment of the legacies that the organisation carries are significant for determining the interventions that are needed and their viability.

Prior to assuming the leadership position in addition to the numerous other challenges, one needs to set aside time to reflect on the realities and challenges for co-creating the organisation. Similarly, time has to be set aside to make sure that other members of the organisation are brought on board the new vision. In both cases, even if changing or continuing a legacy, the new leader will need to communicate his/her vision to the other members, keeping in mind that their participation cannot be simply assumed, but rather ensured.