Some leaders aren’t meant to stand still

by | Dec 1, 2014 | News

Nicky Little from Cirrus writes for The Guardian

Harriet Green has parted company with Thomas Cook after just two years. Only one week before leaving she told a conference audience that, “You can’t do a transformation on this sort of scale in a year or two years. I usually say it’s about six years.”

Whatever the reasons for Green’s departure, she recognised in her conference speech that different kinds of leadership jobs require different kinds of skills – and different lengths of time.

Research shows that women tend to stay in the same role for longer than men do. While men are quicker to move employers today than they were 30 years ago, women tend to stick with their jobs for significantly longer than they used to. A study published earlier this year in the American Sociological Review showed that women’s average job tenure rose 19 percent, from 5.8 years in 1983 to 6.9 years in 2012. The increase was even greater for married mothers, who showed a more than 25 percent increase.

So should you stay or should you go? There are many leadership roles which benefit from long-term commitment but before you start planning your 25 year anniversary party it’s worth taking into account your skill set and natural inclinations. Many people are attracted to leadership roles which may have a fairly short life span of a year or two. Examples of this type of role might include setting up a new function or launching a new product or service. There are usually very clear short-term objectives and deliverables.

If you’re someone who likes a turnaround situation then you need to be someone who can visualise clear goals and focus on hitting them. The first 100 days is a classic period for listening and learning, stay on brief and ask questions in line with your specific goals. For this period it’s best to respect the culture of the organisation and resist any urge to tinker with it. However, once the 100 days are over you need to have a clear plan in mind with a very clear framework so others can contribute ideas and take ownership of particular areas. Communicate your vision and goals to enthuse colleagues to achieve quick wins too.

If you’re taking on the sort of strategic role where you want to see through major change and achieve big, challenging goals, you can take a different approach. You’ll be able to spend more time listening and learning more widely. If cultural change is required in order to achieve those big goals, you can take more time to engage people, increase understanding, and catalyse change in behaviours.

A longer-term leadership role is often more about wider goals, such as business turnaround or cultural transformation. Even in today’s fast-moving world, you will benefit from taking time to really listen to the people around you and learn from them rather than rushing into any decisions. There might be short term goals that you want to achieve but remember to be flexible with the long-term plan, you need to allow for changes in economic circumstances as well as keeping your eye open for unexpected opportunities.

© The Guardian 2014

Click here to read this article in full on The Guardian website.

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