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7 steps to leadership success in the first 100 days

What are the checkpoints a new leader should address if they want to succeed in their first 100 days?

1. A clear mandate

A new leader must understand their going-in mandate – is it big, medium or small? It’s very possible to overreach and be too aggressive or underreach your mandate, cautions Robert Hargrove, an executive coach and former co-director of the Harvard Leadership Project. “Make sure your level of authority matches your level of responsibility; sometimes these two don’t match.”

2. Due diligence starts before you do

Gather as much information as possible before taking up the role. This due diligence period inevitably extends into the first 30 days as the new leader talks to all available stakeholders, including their own team. Importantly, define what value that team brings to the business, says organisational psychologist Judith Chapman.

Make sure your level of authority matches your level of responsibility; sometimes these two don’t match.

3. A vision statement is required

Ideally, Hargrove believes, by day one, a leader should be able to outline: “Here’s where we are, here’s where we’re going and here’s how we’re going to get there.”

It may be a way to kick an early goal. New research from Oxford’s Saïd Business School shows the share price of publicly listed companies skyrockets by more than 12 per cent when CEOs appointed from within the industry reveal their strategies – signs of their competence and experience – in their first 100 days.

If enough early insight is not available, the vision may need to be in broad brushstrokes and, importantly, kept agile.

4. Plan for early wins

The cautionary advice is definitely plan for early wins, but make sure that they are achievable.

5. Embrace realpolitik

Commonly, leaders in new roles find every move they make creates not only support but also opposition, observes Hargrove. This may mean reducing the vision, changing the time parameters or making deals to gain support.

Interrogate strong pushback. It’s possible to harness the energy of resistance, notes Professor Emmanuel Josserand of UTS Business School’s Self-Leadership Lab. “Maybe your opponents are fighting for an ideal. There’s a case for trying to deeply understand why. Often you’ll find there is something interesting there.”


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