Leadership Transitions

The saying goes, “the only things certain in life are death and taxes”. I think “change” needs to be added to that short list. Whether you initiate the shift or circumstances force it upon you, change is inevitable. The timing of when to transition might be out of reach, but you have control over how you handle the changes.

As a recovering change-averse person, I have grown to see the value and the consistency of change. For me, the motivation for a pivot sets in when the frustration of remaining in the same situation becomes too uncomfortable. It reminds me of the movie “Groundhogs Day.” To achieve a different result, you need to keep trying new things. Let’s explore three necessary steps that can help you through transitions.

The first step in moving through transitions is embracing reality. If you operate through rose-colored glasses or catastrophic thinking, you might not be fully embracing the reality of a situation. If you land at either end of this spectrum, chances are it’s related to what Drs. John Townsend and Henry Cloud refer to as “the internal judge” or Brene Brown refers to as “gremlins.” These are the messages and voices that stick in our subconscious from childhood experiences and other encounters throughout our lives. These messages tend to keep us stuck in old, unproductive shame patterns that ultimately freeze us in our tracks. If we remain isolated with these thoughts, we get paralyzed. The cure for this is connection. Check in with a friend or trusted advisor and see if their reality matches with yours. Transitions can trigger emotions and often we need perspectives outside of our own to help balance the reality.

The second step in managing change is to wrestle with the change. Wrestling with a transition means to explore it. You need to research it, list the pros and cons, and express what you like and dislike about it. It is necessary to acknowledge any losses that will take place. For example, if you decide to move your family across the country for a job opportunity, there are losses associated with a change like leaving your job, friends, your child’s school, your church, and community. Even taking a new position within the same organization potentially involves reporting to a new boss, or leaving a well-oiled team to build another from the ground up. Acknowledging the losses will enable you to move forward. I often have clients make a loss register where they record losses surrounding an event. This sets up a structure to help grieve.

The third step is to resolve to focus on what you can control. A good leader knows what falls under their jurisdiction and can let the rest go. Getting sidetracked by attempting to manage issues, people, or concerns out of your control can lead to a place of powerlessness. This tends to render leaders ineffective. Developing your emotional intelligence skills will help you through this step. Awareness of your responses to others and situations is a good beginning. From there, understanding your emotions, strengths, limitations, and actions will help define yourself as a leader. Focusing on building your emotional intelligence and let go of the things you can’t control.

Transitions can be a challenge. Change is disruptive. The truth is that change will come again and again. What are you doing to prepare for the next shift? Let me know what transitions you are moving through and where you are the most challenged regarding embracing reality, wrestling with the change or resolving to only manage what’s in your control.


Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live. New York, NY: Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Cloud, H. (1992). Changes that heal: The four shifts that make everything better… and that anyone can do. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Townsend, J. (1996). Hiding from love. New York: HarperCollins.

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