7 Do-or-Die Questions to Succeed as the Sudden Leader | #Leadership

You’ve heard the title before — interim leader or acting manager — which in truth is a sudden leader. The term sudden leader suggests the challenges of being one and the urgency and pressure you may be under as one. Here are 7 questions to ask to decide if you want this position.

Sudden Leader: Image is person w/ square block on head w/ question mark

Secrets to Succeeding as Sudden Leader or Interim / Acting Manager Image by:Paurian

Image by Paurian via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Ask These 7 Questions Before Becoming the Sudden Leader

  1. Why Do They Need a SUdden Leader? You may only get the formal answer. Yet if they are closed lipped about the reasons, be suspicious. You may even want to pass on the opportunity.

  2. Why you? Ask why you are being asked to fill the gap. It will give you a grounded feeling in the early days. Moreover, it is can be the foundation for initial discussions with your organization/team. In the worst case, it gives you a chance to decline the offer if they say we can’t find anyone else. And yes this does happen!

  3. What is your primary purpose?
    Will your boss want you to:

    Be the temporary focal point for well performing organization? or
    Establish peace in troubled waters? or
    Whip the team into performance shape for the new full-time leader? or
    Rebuild the reputation of the organization? or
    Discover core problems and make recommendations? or
    Stay the course while they decide on new plans for the organization?

  4. What does success look like to your boss? This is not a repeat of question #3. When you ask this question, you will get either additional detail or a shocking contradiction. Either way, it is key to succeeding as the sudden leader.

  5. And These Questions Are Critical Too

  6. What Are the Hot Risks? What crises are brewing? Will you and the organization have the tools, experience, and authority to handle them? To succeed as the sudden leader, find the quicksand before you step in it.

  7. May I Speak With the Team Before Deciding on the Offer? It is a reasonable request and often the answer is yes. If you are not from the organization, you will learn critical information. Hearing the views of those you will lead allows you to decide if you are the right one for the job. Also, it gives you information to decide if the compensation is enough given the challenges.

  8. What Happens to Me When My Interim Leadership Position Ends? If you are from within the organization, what happens to you and your career when the full-time leader is selected? Your future picture impacts your present success and the present success impacts your future. Better to know than be surprised later.

Summary for the Sudden Leader

Sudden leaders often don’t know those they will lead or they know them as peers. They are tapped to fill a gap and thrust without trust into being the sudden leader. They carry the burden of interim status with the urgent challenge of inspiring an unsettled organization or team. Before you say yes to being a sudden leader, prepare yourself with the questions noted above. You won’t be sorry!

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Essential People Skills Mindset: Adapt to Close the Gap
12 People Skills Reminders to Succeed in Leadership

©2019 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email info@katenasser.com for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

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13 Responses to “7 Do-or-Die Questions to Succeed as the Sudden Leader | #Leadership”

  1. Martina says:

    This is a timely article for me Kate. A few of these I wouyld not have thought of myself. And, I can now go into this with better perspective.
    I am being tapped to lead a small segment of my peers into a new project.
    The most troubling is indeed the last question. What happens when this is done?
    Thanks for the insight.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      So glad Martina that this post has timely value for you. As for “what’s next” question — if you leading a project it is not as critical as if you were getting a “temporary” promotion.

      Project leadership is generally a plus for career even within the same company.

      If I can answer any other questions for you, just email me. Glad to help.
      Best wishes and good luck!

  2. Faisal Ahmed says:

    Great post Kate….very informative. Having been in this position, here is another consideration. It’s not necessarily a question just for the boss — How have past interim (or sudden) leaders fared within the organization in similar roles? This may require speaking with a few folks, including HR, but it’s typically a good indication of planning by management. Too many instances of interim managers may indicate a lack of proper employee development or foresight.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thank you Faisal! What a great addition to this list. Forethought can prevent regret. I am grateful for your insight shared here with everyone who visits.

      Best wishes and come back often.


  3. Jim Morgan says:

    An excellent set, Kate. By coincidence, I have been prepping for a class on “The Science of Team Leadership” that talks about your #6. “Culture fit,” for lack of a better term, between the larger organization, the team leader and the team members is a hot topic these days for a good reason: It is more important than technical skills in determining whether a new hire succeeds. In turn, the best way to determine that fit is “high-involvement hiring” in which anyone who will spend a lot of time with the new hire has a significant role in the hiring process. As someone who has taken over teams on short notice, I suggest your readers *insist* on #6. If possible, interview with each individual team member in addition to the group interview. Otherwise you are taking a big gamble on success, and thus with your career.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Agreed Jim. #6 is a true do-or-die item and so often overlooked — with painful results. Many thanks for your insights on culture fit. It makes a significant difference.

      Good luck with your new class.

  4. Great article again Kate.

    I think No. 3 is the trickiest of all. Often the boss either:

    a) Won’t know the real purpose of the job, or
    b) Say one thing but subconsciously mean another. (eg saying – your role is to supervise, where as what they may really want is someone to make their own life easier).

    Beware of what people tell you. They may not know what they want, or say what they mean.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thanks Steven. I agree that often people don’t know what they want or how best to describe it. Asking more than one question on it can sometimes unearth the truth.
      Truly grateful for your add on this post!

  5. Ed Wach says:

    Very good points, even for those of us who are searching for a new position.

  6. Alli Polin says:

    A few years ago I coached someone who was asked to step in as a sudden leader. We worked together for several sessions as he decided if he would accept the position. His fear was that he did not apply to be a leader and didn’t see himself that way. He knew he was great at his job but was unsure if he had what it takes to lead others day to day. Moreover, he didn’t want his day to day job to change – he loved it. Ultimately, he stepped up when needed and discovered new abilities within himself and opened the door to sharing his knowledge with others in a more formal way which he greatly enjoyed. What he needed to work through was what was stopping him from saying yes. Once he understood that he was able to move forward with clarity and purpose. He could also articulate his concerns and where he needed support to the leaders above him.

    This is a great post and not highlighted often enough. Will share!


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Alli,
      Your real life examples always strengthen these blog posts. I love this particular example because it speaks to the hidden obstacles that stop many from achieving their destiny. Self-awareness wins again!


  7. Terri Klass says:

    Terrific post Kate! I love the topic and all your helpful questions. Sudden positions can unravel quickly if a person doesn’t get the true scoop of what is going on. That is why I would find out from many different sources including Glassdoor why a company has an open spot and if there has been extensive turnover with this particular position. A sudden opening could mean sever leadership failures.

    Thanks Kate!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Amen to that Terri. Research and some great questions can help avoid tremendous pain and trouble.
      Thank you for adding to this discussion,

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