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Our Leader is Gone, Now What?

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People + StrategyGiven the instability that is being fomented in this presidential election, it seems timely to consider how the United States has managed a massive leadership transition every four or eight years up to this point without outbreaks of violence, rebellion or war. Rough and tumble though the campaigns may be, no one outside of a few fringe players has ever seriously questioned the legitimacy of the process or the new president until now. There has always some partisan anxiety, but few real threats to our democracy. Even the disruption to the operation of the Federal government has been relatively minor when compared to leadership transitions in non-democratic countries. And while one shouldn’t ignore the significant transactional costs incurred in these transitions, they have been accepted as a “cost of doing business” in the system our body politic accepts as legitimate.

Whether a leader’s departure is precipitated by the normal business cycle or by an unexpected circumstance, organizations can manage the ensuing transition smoothly if an adequate foundation has been laid. If the culture is healthy, if there is a defined mission and articulated goals, if employees are committed to that mission and those goals, if there is open communication and if there are stabilizing systems in place, a smooth segue after a leader’s departure can be institutionalized, in much the same way that our electoral transition is.

This is just an example of the insights Terri Hartwell Easter and Susan Brooks offer in their new article, Our Leader is Gone, Now What? Creating the Foundation for Stable Transitions, which first appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of People + Strategy. People + Strategy is a highly respected quarterly journal that delivers the most current theory, research and practice in strategic human resource management. It consistently ranks among the top benefits in surveys among HRPS members. The publication focuses on HR best practices that help executives consistently improve HR performance and drive organizational development and effectiveness.

Throughout the article, Terri and Susan address the systemic perspective of transitions, focusing on the dynamics surrounding exiting leaders, along with recommendations to ensure ongoing employee engagement.

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