Transitions Even Top Leaders Struggle With

By Harvard Business Review
September 3, 2018

Ambitious leaders whose careers are derailed share many commonalities, including these three moves.

Making a career move? Here are three common situations that can derail an ambitious executive’s career track.

The leap into leadership. The transition to the top team is demanding, with 50 to 60 percent of executives failing within the first 18 months of being promoted or hired. The best thing a new executive can do to avoid a brief tenure is to actively pursue feedback. Knowing the areas where others think you need to grow will allow you to get the support you need — whether through executive coaching, mentorship or making adjustments to your team.

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The organizational transition. High-stakes transformations can be extremely risky for executives who fail to reinvent the organization or themselves fast enough. To survive organizational or industry shifts, leaders need to get ahead of change by communicating consistently with the CEO or board to make it clear where they stand on the need for change and how they will lead its implementation.

The pinnacle paradox. The last tricky transition is the career pinnacle. Leaders who have finally secured a top spot may find themselves working harder than ever to succeed without knowing their next career steps. In time, this uncertainty, combined with job stress, can lead to burnout.

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Leaders must take steps to either extend their tenures or prepare for what’s next in their careers. As part of that, they need to rethink their relationships with sponsors. At this stage in their careers, they may not need sponsors to create new opportunities for them, but they do need advocates, supportive peers and role models.

C-suite executives who surround themselves with support and have a clear vision of their futures will be more likely to succeed.

Copyright 2018 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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