I had the good fortune of studying leadership in a Ph.D. program at Andrews University in the early 2000s. The program required full-time employment as a condition for acceptance as a working professional. The Andrews University Leadership Program designed a learner-driven, competency-based study of leadership. I was in the driver’s seat of my learning with the guidance of faculty from the School of Education, the School of Business, and the School of Theology in this interdisciplinary program. In my literature review, I learned that the discipline of leadership was relatively new, since the 1970s. The literature seemed to fall into four broad categories:
Each of these domains required a unique skillset for the leader, depending on the level of leadership she or he was providing.
How does one learn their new leadership position at a new company in a new industry?
When I arrived at Buckner International as president of Buckner Children and Family Services in 2007, I entered a new field of service in social work. I had experience leading others, teams, and organizations in business, vocational ministry, and higher education settings at that point in much smaller organizations. I came to the Buckner assignment as a prospective successor to Dr. Ken Hall, president and CEO at Buckner International. However, there was no guarantee I would succeed him. During the next three years, I was on educational and leading tracks to learn about Buckner ministry and demonstrate capable leadership.
Book recommendation for new leaders at any stage of their career
I came across a fascinating book that provided a framework for success as a leader in a new role. It was a book written by Michael Watkins, professor of leadership and organizational change at the Institute for Management Development in Switzerland. The book’s title was, "The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels," Harvard Business Review Press, 2003.
The book provided a clear path to success for a new leader in a new role. It was perfect for me. I read it carefully and began to implement the ideas set forth. One of the best ideas called for the new leader to “market” oneself in their new role. Honestly, I mistakenly thought a memo and press releases announcing my new role was enough. However, I implemented some of the tools the book recommended, such as investing the time to introduce myself to my peers, other key leaders in the organization, and external stakeholders and explained my role as president of Buckner Children and Family Services. The investment of that advice paid off.
The other major contribution of this book is the author’s description of six different business scenarios. It is likely your organization is in one of them. Each situation requires a specific kind of leadership. Leadership style is less important than situational leadership and what the organization needs from its leaders in the moment. My biggest takeaway from the book was what I learned about personal management. I had to learn to manage myself in my new role and new organization. I recommend this book to new leaders at Buckner at every level. If you are new to your role in your organization, reading and implementing this book will cement your success.