Culture themes

A new leader

The challenge

A new leader or CEO will want to put his or her own stamp on the organisation. They are likely to bring an influx of sweeping changes and the installation of new systems and symbols.

These may work, but must always consider in parallel the behavioural and cultural aspects. Dissonance and cynicism between the leader and his or her people can slow down growth.

So, how can a new CEO make their mark, utilise past experience and effectively harness and develop or change culture to realise genuine benefits?


Recognise the risks

  • Take time to understand the role and influence of the departing leader. A charismatic leader that built the culture at the core of the organisation’s success is a different act challenge to follow than a leader that has been ‘helped out’ of the business due to a management style built on a culture of fear, avoidance and blame.
  • Realise that the ways in which you’ve built success elsewhere will add insight to your new role, but can rarely be used as a cookie-cutter solution from company to company.
  • When asking ‘why do you do it that way? - a phrase commonly used by new CEOs - take the time to unearth the values and beliefs that drive the reason, rather than just focus on the process aspects of the task.
  • Too much, too soon. Sweeping changes can lead to the impression everything before your era was wrong and that you are right. Remember, many in your workforce are emotionally engaged with who or what came before you.

Action checklist

  • Identify the cultural heritage of the organisation and invest in understanding the corporate values and beliefs which drive the behaviours, that in turn drive actions, which drive the results.
  • Create a compelling vision and clearly, patiently and frequently share this with everyone in the organisation. Creating change to deliver something new for the future is more engaging than creating change because the past was wrong.
  • Try to build upon any change programs currently taking place within the business. Steering these towards an amended vision may be more effective than starting over.
  • Understand your own set of values and beliefs. Leaders cast a long shadow. Understanding yours will help you interact with and steer the culture around you.

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