An invisible leadership transition is an increase in the responsibilities or scope of your position without any official change to your current position. Invisible leadership transitions have become increasingly more common over the past year and a half due to the pandemic.
When we think of leadership transitions, we tend to think of those that are planned out in advance with an announcement made that someone will be stepping down or has accepted a new position and a search is underway for their replacement or a replacement has already been named and the transitional period is outlined to reassure investors.
However, invisible leadership transitions are quite different in nature. You can think of them as those four words you sometimes see on a job description, ‘other duties as assigned’. The changes brought about by the COVID-19 virus have forced companies to rethink their go-to-market strategies, their business plans, and their operational processes, just to name a few areas that have changed in the last eighteen months.
Those four words now carry a lot more weight as executives are taking on new and different responsibilities than they imagined just two years ago. According to an article from MITSloan Management Review, “Job transitions have skyrocketed, and, for many, substantial role changes have taken place without changes in their job’s title, description, or authority. Transitions have become increasingly informal and invisible.”
Not surprisingly, invisible leadership transitions are more difficult to manage than traditional leadership transitions. Processes for traditional transitions are in place, from succession planning to hiring, to onboarding, there are documents and programs that HR and executive teams can tap into.
With invisible transitions, there is typically nothing available to enable the process. It is typically assumed that the executive will be able to handle the new responsibilities. As you may know firsthand, it is not easy taking on new responsibilities, it requires time, energy, and focus that is now diverted from existing responsibilities.
If you’ve experienced an invisible leadership transition, here are lessons they found to help you move forward:
As you see invisible transitions taking place in your role, document what has changed, articulate it to your peers and boss, and advocate for how it needs to be handled to best serve the organization moving forward.
If you’re taking on a new team, you can’t underestimate the power of communicating. Over-communicate initially to build trust. Be open and honest in your conversations, listen and show empathy.
Seize the Moment to Grow
Be open to the change and approach it with agile thinking. With technology today, everyone is dealing with invisible transitions in their role. The pandemic may have accelerated how much this is impacting executives, but with the right mindset, these changes are excellent opportunities for growth.
If you see invisible leadership transitions happening in your organization and want to better manage them or understand if you need to hire to support these changes, let us know how our team of recruiters can help.