There is already a vast digital library on the subject of leadership, in addition to mountains of old fashioned, straight up management guides. But what about the army of interim leaders, the contractors and maternity cover troopers who keep things afloat?
They’re often not expected to demonstrate leadership skills on a short-term basis. I have often been asked questions like ‘why are you bothering?’, followed up with statements along the lines of ‘we didn’t expect you to care or invest in us that way’. It’s always worthwhile doing something properly, rolling up your sleeves and taking things to a higher level.
It’s important for interim leaders to maintain openness, as far as confidentiality allows, with their team and quickly demonstrate that they will give honest feedback, sensitively delivered. They should seek to champion and develop their team without being shackled by time factors. They may not be around to see their team’s meteoric rise up the ladder, but that should not prevent them advising on career paths and contributing to their Personal Development Plans. Straight answers and honest feedback, whether good or bad, are important in time-limited rapport building. ‘Walk the walk’ may well be an adage, but in interim leadership it is vital. Trust takes time and if you don’t have a lot of it then you’d better get cracking. An understanding of long-term career goals and/or immediate role frustrations can pinpoint issues, and also potentially explain why the previous manager left.
I’d urge those recruiting for interim cover to keep in mind that leadership, however short the tenure, must be kept on the table. Apart from anything else, this will achieve maximum value for money, and what company doesn’t want to do that? Why not make this a bigger part of your interview process? By selecting and briefing interim managers in more depth, you will avoid mixed messages, achieve your goals more quickly and ensure permanent employees remain fulfilled, directed, and developed. There’s no barrier to having an interim leader for those in the team or the boardroom, it’s just a state of mind.