When the New Boss Has Big Shoes to Fill

Sep 08, 2017
As Featured In 
Academy of Management Journal

First Win Over Your Team, Then Roll Out Changes

Words of wisdom for new managers: First win over your team, then roll out your changes. But do it all with a keen understanding of the leader who came before you. You’ll be a lot more successful. These are the conclusions of new research from M. Susan Taylor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and three co-authors that examined leadership transitions of midlevel managers and how teams responded to them.

The researchers find that a new leader’s ability to push through changes in an organization depends on how the former leader was viewed by their team and how the new leader uses that information to rally support from the team. A new manager replacing an unpopular manager doesn’t have as far of a hill to climb to gain the team’s support as a one replacing a manager who will be sorely missed.

The key for both managers and team members, Taylor says, is being proactive. “A person coming in with an agenda needs to be thinking ‘how can I get in amongst my team?’” Likewise, she says, team members need to make sure their voices are heard by proactively communicating with the new manager.

The researchers’ advice for organizations is to select new manages who are more proactive and change-oriented than a former leader to result in an effective leadership transition, with minimal disruption, to help the new leader achieve his or her change agenda.

Read more: Does Proactive Personality Matter in Leadership Transitions? Effects of Proactive Personality on New Leader Identification and Responses to New Leaders and Their Change Agenda is featured in the Academy of Management Journal.

About the Author(s)


Dr. Susan Taylor is Smith Chair of Human Resource Management & Organizational Change and Co-Director of the Center For Leadership, Innovation, & Technology (CLIC) at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, the University of Maryland, College Park. She earned her doctorate from Purdue University in I/O Psychology and has also been a visiting faculty member at the Amos Tuck School, Dartmouth College, University of Washington, Seattle, School of Administration at Bocconi University, Milan Italy, and the London Business School.

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Robert H. Smith School of Business
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