Council Post: Stepping Into A New Leadership Role? The Best Transitions Have Three Phases

Barkley Reserve
3 min readMar 17, 2022


By Michael Milad

Michael Milad is a consultant and psychologist at SpencerStuart, specializing in CEO succession, executive development and company culture.

First, congratulations on your new role! This article, as the first in a series, is intended to be written as a letter and guide to you, the new leader. Your leadership will affect your organization — its employees, customers and stakeholders — and the many thousands of interdependencies that exist both within your community and more broadly. You will have a tremendous impact!

As a new leader, time is your most precious commodity. And while most leaders do figure out how to succeed in the role, most underestimate the risks of “figuring it out.” We all can relate to stumbling on a solution, only to find a more efficient way later, right? It is easy to overlook the inefficiencies because our day-to-day world is moving so fast.

However, when it comes to senior leader transitions, lost opportunities have critical implications: You may make decisions that once you experience the implications, you cannot get back. Helping enable successful outcomes is vitally important and is part of my own mission. Having worked with CEOs and leaders on transitions, there is an explicit acknowledgment that there is a lot coming at you. It can be hard to share all the knowledge we have in periodic conversations. The insights shared are born out of the desire to provide detailed information on the best practices for CEO and leader transitions, sharing lessons learned from those who have gone before you. Ultimately, these articles are intended to enable you to hit the ground running as you take the reins.

While most new leaders “figure out” how to succeed in the role, most underestimate the risks of “figuring it out.” To help save you some time, here are the phases of the most effective transitions:

* Phase 1: The learning stage. You gain insight into the organization, and the organization learns more about you, as you get ready to embark on the journey together.

* Phase 2: The strategic visioning stage. Here, you build your view of the ideal outcome and make sure there is a clear game plan to get there.

* Phase 3: The execution and culture-shaping stage. Ensure your strategic vision is implemented and achieved and work toward fostering an ideal culture that helps shape how all your employees think, act and behave.

The first two phases are the cornerstone of a leader’s first 100 days. (By the way: There is no magic in 100 days. This initial period could be up to five months.) What is important is that you give employees and key stakeholders established timelines. The 100-day plan you share with employees and stakeholders should cover how you plan to achieve phases I and II, including the timing of your vision rollout.

Your stakeholders are wired for predictability. In organizations, because of the inherent nature of work as a means of providing for one’s family, more is at stake. The fear can feel very personal. Ambiguity is that scary. Documenting how you are planning to approach the business provides more certainty in an uncertain situation. Doing this will help ensure short-term focus and minimize angst as much as possible.

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Founded in October of 2020 in Greenville, SC, Barkley Reserve is a marketing and sales firm that works with clients in the telecommunications industry.