By Owen Phelps, Ph.D.

When a new leader takes the helm, there’s always an adjustment period for leader and staff alike.

But the leader who is thoughtful and considerate during this period can do much to not only ease the pain of transition, but also set a high trajectory for team performance going forward, says Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, a former educator and school administrator who now serves as an executive coach and organizational consultant.

Hoff says it’s important for a leader to realize that his or her personality is bound to be at least somewhat different from his or her predecessor -- and the greater the difference, the more team members can struggle with the change.

True in business and in parishes

Having consulted with business leaders and pastors alike, I’m convinced that Hoff is making a very important point. While his audience is primarily leaders in education and business, in my experience one of the most difficult transitions is often from one pastor to the next.

Pastors are very public people – the centers of their faith communities. Their impact on staff and parish members alike is always foundational and can be transformational. But that just means that the stakes are higher when there’s a transition from one pastor who has been on the scene for many years to a new one who may also have little leadership experience.  

He suggests that leaders take a good look at themselves – and their predecessors, if possible -- using a simple color scheme that outlines in very board terms four different personality types.

  • Blue leaders are emotionally driven; they value harmony in groups and tend to be enthusiastic, creative and sympathetic.
  • Gold leaders are loyalty driven; they value rules and authority; they’re responsible, organized and appreciative.
  • Orange leaders are short-term driven; they welcome change and variety, they’re adventurous, competitive and compulsive.
  • Green leaders are logically driven; they’re independent thinkers, focused, efficient and analytical.

Members of any of these groups can be effective leaders – each brings gifts to the leadership role. But when there’s a change of leaders from one type to another, team members can struggle with the change.

Hoff learned the lesson the hard way when he assumed the role of leading a school, replacing a predecessor who was his “polar opposite.” The two leaders differed in how we interacted with others and in the amount of quiet, private time (with the door closed) that we wanted or needed to function effectively in our jobs,” he recalls.

Live and learn

“At the time, I really didn’t appreciate this issue. To me, I was who I was and I assumed that everyone else would simply get used to dealing with a new boss,” he says.

“In hindsight, I feel that I could and should have taken more time to understand my personality ... and how that may affect those around me -- especially when they were used to something very different,” he confesses.

He also says leaders should try to quickly understand the broad personality outlines of everyone on the team. For example, a green personality might want private time to process information. A gold personality might value a detailed meeting agenda.

Leaders who show a little consideration are likely to see better results. And a key skill in this process is the ability to listen – because with listening comes learning.

Hoff has one more suggestion: Leaders can educate their teams about the existence of such personality “colors” so they better understand one another, themselves, and their new leader. That greater understanding is likely to inspire greater performance across the board, Hoff says.





Bookmark and Share