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A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.Francis Bacon

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Joining the leadership team—what are the stakes?

Joining the leadership team—what are the stakes?

Being appointed to a senior executive position or entering the executive committee sounds like a consecration. But the transition often proves much more difficult than imagined. How can you prepare for this major change?


Monday, January 5, 6 p.m. Pierre has just learned that he has been appointed Regional Director for Asia. He feels proud, even a bit euphoric. This appointment crowns an already successful career, and finally gives him a seat on the executive committee. He knows the task that awaits him isn’t easy, but as an experienced professional, he feels ready to take on the challenge.

Monday, April 5, 6 p.m. Pierre hangs up with his European counterpart after a stormy debate about transferring resources that are vital to the launch of the new digital offering. He gets ready to jump onto a plane to attend the monthly executive committee meeting, where he hopes to get the support of the managing director. Settled in his seat, he catches himself thinking, “I didn’t think it would be this hard.” He feels, more than ever before, that he is constantly obliged to negotiate and compromise with many different stakeholders. Every hour brings a new batch of tradeoffs, many of which must be made based on patchy information and with all eyes on him. A recognized and respected professional, he must now prove himself again. It’s somewhat destabilizing and, to tell the truth, a bit frustrating.

Pierre is far from an isolated case. Most leaders who take on a senior executive position for the first time experience this sense of confusion and frustration in the first months. According to a McKinsey study, nearly 40% of senior executives admit that it took them three to five months to feel comfortable in their new role. And some never really get used to it: half of all new senior executives fail in their first eighteen months, according to several studies. The realities of being a senior leader often come as a shock. While many new executives first believed they were being promoted for their capabilities and expected to simply have to make some additional effort, they gradually discover that what is expected of them is different—in terms of attitude, type of contribution, modes of influence to lead the organization to success, etc. How can you navigate this difficult transition successfully?

In this synopsis:
- Common myths about the role of senior leader
- Successfully transition to an executive-level position
- Becoming a senior executive: a radically different role

Synopsis n.266a