How Companies Can Transition Successfully to New Leadership

In a relay race, passing the baton requires precision, both from the passer and the receiver.

There are pointers players need to adhere to – like a passer shouldn’t hold on to the baton too tight, but firm enough not to let it fall when passing to the receiver, the receiver starts to jog forward as he sees the passer approaching.
Dropping the baton means disqualification. Missing a beat will mean losing precious seconds in the race.
Passing the baton is similar to leadership transition. How many management or leadership transitions have you encountered? How was your experience?
These transitions can be remarkably civilised or outrageously disruptive. But one thing is for sure. It is ALWAYS stressful. Both to the new leader and to the company.

According to DDI’s Leadership Transitions Report 2021, “Stressful transitions have a long-term impact, with 45% of leaders who had stressful transitions rating themselves as average or below average leaders compared to their peers.” The responses came from 2,102 human resource executives and 15,787 leaders around the world.

What can companies do to ensure they will transition to new leadership successfully each time? How can they not miss a beat during the transition? How can the passer and receiver not drop the baton in the process?


The preparation for succession, mentoring and coaching of understudies take time and should, therefore, not commence when the “founding father” is in his retiring age.

In China, where family businesses drive economic growth, succession planning begins very early because it involves in-depth orientation of business. Training involves more than discipline but instilling wise stewardship in the next generation because the next leadership will not just take over the business, but will be responsible for the preservation of family name and legacy.

In the book, Leading Organizations: Ten Timeless Truths, McKinsey Senior Partners Scott Keller and Meany  Keller and Meany report that “as many as 74 percent of US leaders and 83 percent of global ones think they are unprepared for their new roles.”

Transitioning to a new leader is not just about filling a position. The process also includes acquainting the candidate on the corporate culture, the current state of the business, intricacies of team dynamics (who had the most influence, how decisions are made, how things roll), etc. The new leader, however, must be able to ask for these critical details if they are not provided.

Any current leader must identify and develop a successor or an understudy. Because honestly, and in reality, anything can happen.
Five hundred executives were asked to rank their top three human-capital priorities, and almost two-thirds of the participants picked out leadership development as their number-one critical issue. And it is a sad reality that only 7 percent of the senior managers, asked by a UK business school, think that their companies develop global leaders effectively.

An effective leader has the distinct skill and wisdom to identify a potential leader in his team. Upon identification of succession candidate/s, he must take the time to invest in mentoring and coaching his protégé/s.

Knowledge transfer is one thing, influence is another. The potential successor should be effectively enmeshed into the leader’s mindset that they almost finish each other’s sentences. It can happen. And when you find that perfect match, it will be a huge accomplishment for both the initiator and the successor.
A successful transition speaks well of the retiring or departing leader.


Coaching culture is not ordering people and telling them what to do,  but coaching culture creates a space where employees can engage in conversations asking questions, giving and getting feedback, listening, and sharing knowledge. Employees in these one-on-one or group coaching sessions engage in conversations that maximise strengths, minimise weaknesses and converse about their goals and progress.

A coaching culture must start from the top down, across the board. It must be embedded in each employee’s DNA so deep it could potentially be a strength and core competence for your organisation.
A Gallup’s research showed that when coaching culture is done effectively within the organisation, these results happen:

  1. Increase in employee productivity
  2. Improved employee performance
  3. Increase in employee engagement
  4. Reduced employee attrition
  5. Increase in sales
  6. Promote an inclusive environment for employees
  7. Develop potential successors


“Everything rises and falls on leadership”, says John C. Maxwell.
Creating a coaching culture is one way to prepare the organisation for any transition or disruption. And the coaching culture must come from the top of the food chain for it to be effective and rewarding.

It could be a challenge to any organisation and more so for big corporations. The process can be daunting (where to start, how to start, who to initially involve, etc.) so management commitment to the project is crucial and will be the great driving force for success.

With management commitment and employee involvement, it is possible. It can be done.  
If your organisation is ready for this transformation, or if you have any questions or interest in this topic, and would like to explore this activity for your team, please connect with me through my number +49 4292-517 288, email: or any of my social media accounts.