The first few days are rarely simple for a new leader.
If you’re appointed chief executive to turn around an ailing company, your ideas may be met with a hostile reception.
A Labour MP for more than 30 years, the party’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn is hardly an external appointment. But he is still facing many of the challenges a new boss must tackle. How is he faring as top-dog?
From a business perspective, the results may surprise you.
PICKING A TEAM
Who to keep and who to bring with you? It’s a tough question which any new leader must answer.
Admittedly, Corbyn had some of the work done for him, with a raft of shadow cabinet resignations, but it’s fair to say that, like many bosses, he has “cleaned house”.
After landing the chief executive role at Kraft Foods, John Cahill also cut loose a number of the company’s C-suite occupants, including the chief financial officer and chief marketing officer.
The leadership structure you choose must reflect your plans for growth, but it is important to retain those who know how the company is structured and operates, while removing those who may needlessly impede those new plans.
Perhaps because he lacks support among Labour MPs, Corbyn’s approach to repopulating his cabinet has been balanced.
Promoting moderates like Angela Eagle and Gloria de Piero was a sensible way to temper objections to the controversial decision to bring in John McDonnell, Corbyn’s main ally on Labour’s left.
SHARE YOUR VISION
The employees a boss chooses to retain will be anxious to understand their vision for the business. New leaders should be transparent about their stance quickly, and lay out a 30-day plan, UberConference’s Jeanne DeWitt told the Harvard Business Review.
“You may not know your strategy, but you can certainly talk about your values, priorities and observations,” she says.
Apple uses the term “magic” internally, says Linkedin “Influencer” Steven Sinofsky, as a loose definition for what makes the company unique. Corbyn’s openness to “debate” the party’s position on issues like the UK’s membership of Nato and the EU is wise, given the wider party’s disagreement with him.
But Hilary Benn’s announcement that Labour will fight to stay in the EU “in all circumstances”, which was later contradicted by Corbyn, suggests that the party’s vision is still quite blurred.
A BALANCING ACT
Corbyn need not indulge all MPs.
“When new managers focus solely on one-on-one relationships, they neglect a fundamental aspect of effective leadership: harness the collective power of the group to improve individual performance and commitment,” says Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill.
Corbyn’s huge mandate flows from his dogged loyalty to his principles.
And his decision to attend a community mental health event rather than appear on the Andrew Marr show is a clear indication of his commitment to them.
But few bosses would recommend dodging press questions in the street if he wants to sell his message to the wider public.
Any company in the midst of a change in management is vulnerable.
But a Labour whipping error meant that the Conservatives were able to vote through a reduction to tax credits on Tuesday by a larger majority than expected.
Lapses in communication must be guarded against, as competitors will look to exploit teething problems.