One thing a good friend said to me after we the heard news of Queen Elizabeth’s passing was “it’s also sad we will not see Lisa LaFlamme reporting on this.” It was true – she was out of a job at CTV, and her replacement quickly announced. (Ms. LaFlamme did end up reporting the story for another outlet, but we didn’t know she would do so at the time.)
While the circumstances surrounding what happened in Britain are obviously vastly different, a few aspects were similar. When the Queen died, she was immediately replaced in the role. Both women were highly regarded and will be missed.
In terms of succession, one compelling difference here is how the incumbents introduced themselves to the public in their new roles. One did so with humility and dignity, and one without any sense of the space around him.
King Charles said: “[She] was an inspiration and example to me and to all my family, and we owe her the most heartfelt debt any family can owe to their mother; for her love, affection, guidance, understanding and example. Queen Elizabeth’s was a life well lived; a promise with destiny kept and she is mourned most deeply in her passing. That promise of lifelong service I renew to you all today.”
Omar Sachedina, who was appointed in Ms. LaFlamme’s place at CTV, took a rather different approach:
“I am honoured to be following in the footsteps of Lisa LaFlamme and Lloyd Robertson. So excited to be working with our incredibly talented team in this new role!”
The difference in approach is stark. One was heartfelt, reading the audience around the emotional gravity of the situation and acknowledging the contributions made by his predecessor in the role. The other took a rather celebratory and excitable approach in commenting on his new role.
Anyone taking over a position from someone needs to be respectful of how they introduce themselves in those early days. For me, one was, and one was not.
This is an example that can be followed by others who find themselves in a similar situation of leadership succession, whether it has been planned for decades, or come at short notice. When assuming a leadership role that has been vacated under messy or sad circumstances, there are a few things to remember.
No matter what the circumstances, if you are taking over a role from a much-loved person, no one is going to be ready to accept you automatically. The only way to get on that path is to first publicly acknowledge not only the contributions of your predecessor, but what you may have learned from them. Talk about highlights, even if only briefly, before you go into what impact you hope to make. In other words, the “big shoes to fill” analogy is not enough.
Show some level of compassion, even in the most awkward of circumstances. Displaying any type of excitement is not going to win you support. Assuming a role that has been held by someone else for a lengthy period is a moment of privilege, not excitement or entitlement. You may well be excited, but keep it to yourself for now.
People may know who you are by title, but have no knowledge of your character. Take time to meet people, talk with them and learn more about their connection with your predecessor. Yes, you want to put your own stamp on things, but in the early days, take it slow and seek to understand before making big changes.
Making haste slowly
If you’ve been watching any part of the royal funeral coverage, you’ll have been hearing endless speculation about what King Charles will do next, either by tradition, or to show his own leadership style. That he has remained publicly silent reminds me that while it is important to set your own course, it should not be rushed – you need to make haste slowly, especially in times of leadership turbulence.
In short, park your ego when you are taking over a role during a difficult time. Take your cue from a king.
Eileen Dooley is a talent and leadership development specialist, and a leadership coach, based in Calgary Alberta