Small, subtle leadership actions have a big impact. Small leadership moments are characterized by two key features:

  • Leveraging small efforts to create a disproportionately large effect
  • Enacting or symbolizing emerging new directions.

We liken “small leadership” to Karl Weick’s notion of small wins—moments of seemingly modest action that alter the context in which subsequent organizational experience takes place.

Leadership transitions represent a critical moment for organizations, an incoming leader, and the existing staff. Below, are some small leadership skills that can help with transitions at many levels (e.g., a new colleague joining a work group, a new unit leader, or a new CEO of the enterprise).

1. Leader as a time traveler. The skill of linking past, present, and future help blend continuity and change.

2. Borrow others’ perspectives. At whatever level one enters, it is powerful to see the situation from a level up, and a level below.

3. Think in triangles. Most challenges are triangular: the old leader, the new, and the existing group. The co-orientation toward a third point creates more energy and less gridlock.

4. Deepen inquiry, mindfulness, listening vs. talking. Both leader and follower should find moments in the flow of the actual work to inquire of one another what has been helpful and not as they learn how to best collaborate.

5. Take stock of where the enterprise, the unit, and yourself are. Often, existing staff imagines the new leader is in transition and they are not, but both are in transition.

6. Link. Newness can create gingerness in early moments of tension, just when the opposite of moving closer to learn from the dynamic is adaptive.

7. Create space. Leaders should question old routines and existing staff should use the occasion to question themselves and others as to what adds value.

To read more about the Power of “Small Leadership” click here.