Written by Cheryl Jacobs

There is no shortage of developmental opportunities and challenges a leader can face throughout their careers.   Difficult assignments, varying business conditions, employee performance issues, turning from a peer to a boss, are all examples of situations that can stall a leader’s career or present an opportunity to move in new and exciting directions.  Successful leaders ultimately manage the impact and direction of these situations more effectively than others.

The US Census Bureau study found that the average job holder stayed with the same employer just 4 years.  While successful leaders are not the same as average job holders, certainly, the presence of ‘change’ over the course of their career is consistent.  Most successful leaders have worked for more than one company, many have changed careers, and almost all have experienced internal transition like getting a new boss or being promoted.  Successful leaders don’t just let these events happen and see their careers magically develop.  They are able to adjust accordingly by focusing on two basic principles:

How do I personally adapt?

What do you, the leader, need to work on in yourself to be successful in your new role?  Given your history, mindset and capabilities, what are the most important personal shifts you personally need to make when you get promoted or join a new company? What do you need to do more of and less of? What new competencies do you need to develop? What adjustments in your style do you need to make?

Every leader makes adjustments.  Successful leaders make adjustments that are right for the situation.

What is important to the organization? 

Personal reflection becomes more powerful when it is matched with strong organizational awareness.  Whereas the above reflection is about you, the organizational context is what you need to accomplish in the business. What is the current state of the organization? Who are the key stakeholders? What do they expect you to accomplish and in what time frame? What resources do you have to work with? What will success look like?

Answering one question without the other will skew the picture- balance between the two is very important.  Successful leaders also know that the answers to these questions are fluid- they are not answered once and never thought of again.  There is a consistent process of self-reflection and strategic thinking that helps guide their energy and actions.

Simple questions that, if answered honestly, provide powerful direction.