Written by Kathy Fauble, Professional Education Services Director

Growing up on a farm I never dreamed of being a princess. Playing cowboy, wading in the creek, and swimming in the pond was more fun. Princesses were another world away until Diana joined the Royal Family. From then on, I have been a bit of a royal watcher, so it saddened me to learn of the Queen’s passing last week.

There have been so many poignant adjectives to describe the Queen: loyal, dutiful, trustworthy, formidable, respected, respectful, etc. It really is incredible that one person could see, do, and accomplish so much. And talk about a work ethic. There is no early retirement option for the Queen. She worked and served in her own unique way, and the Commonwealth loved her. It’s a tough act to follow! In one sense, the succession planning is easy. Charles gets the gig. But the poor guy is already in hot water for reacting in frustration when a pen leaked on his hand. You can just imagine the staff whispering behind his back, “the Queen never would have fussed like that!” Transitions are never easy.

Filling Big Shoes

Maybe you have been that person who replaced a beloved leader or maybe you have been the person who knew the replacement would never measure up. Filling big shoes is never easy, but we all have a responsibility in making the transition and easy one.

If you are assuming a new role, pay tribute to the person who has left, then make sure you get off to a good start using these simple tips:

  1. Build trust instead of walls. This must be the golden rule of leadership. Too many times I’ve seen leaders take over with a “it’s my way or the highway” attitude. Trust is a process. Trust is about consistency. Building trust starts with communication. It’s about talking to people and not about people. Our keynote speaker for the ICAHN Annual Conference will be addressing this idea that, without trust, organizations and individuals fail. As Stephen Covey said, ““The first job of a leader—at work or at home—is to inspire trust.”
  2. Questions lead to understanding. Yes, you have great new ideas. Yes, you have a vision of how to take your team to a higher level. People you lead want to hear your ideas and vision, but they also want to be heard. Asking questions can be scary, but it creates opportunity. Asking questions doesn’t stop a few weeks into the job. A good leader recognizes the importance of employee rounding to create greater engagement and reduce stress and burnout.
  3. Don’t take it personally. Not everyone is going to like you. That’s hard because we all want to be liked, but trying to be liked by everyone gets messy for a leader. We all have personal preferences, and some people are just going to prefer the former leader to you. Let it go. Honor the past leader but show confidence in what you do through your values.

Do Your Part

If you are part of the team, do your part to give the new leader the benefit of the doubt. A warm welcome goes a long way. Recognize that is also your responsibility to build a strong relationship. Show empathy, a willingness to listen, and always act professionally.

I hope the King does well, but it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. The British press isn’t known for empathy and a willingness to listen! That’s how I see it this week from where I sit.

As a footnote:

The ICAHN Annual Conference is November 10 in Champaign, IL. David Horsager from the Trust Edge Leadership Institute will talk about the strategic advantage of a trusted leader. Registration for the conference is open at www.icahn.org.