This is a question that gets asked a lot in terms of team sports. Just this week, the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers had to ask that question before and after their trade of two clubhouse leaders. NFL teams ask themselves that every time they cut a trusted veteran and decide to keep a younger player. Their businesses are built on cohesion and chemistry. Tinkering with that mix may yield a disastrous season.
In the business world, these changes happen all of the time. CEOs and other senior leaders change companies constantly, taking their “team” with them from job to job. The leadership void that is left behind can potentially cripple a team or company until the next regime comes in and starts implementing their plan.
Regardless of your spot in a company, when your leader leaves, you have a chance to improve your company standing. Being ready for that opportunity is a key to your upward mobility. You should focus on the following:
1. Interpersonal relationships within the current organization. If you are a good teammate and have made positive relationships in the key departments that affect your team, you are already on the radar for moving up. Continue investing in these relationships when there is a leadership void. Your presence will help you become a go to person.
2. Global perspective. Looking at your corporate landscape and understanding where the company needs you will help you gain the access needed to become a more valued leader. If your former boss used to present quarterly numbers to the Board and you were the person running them, volunteer to fill that void.
3. Being the calming influence. People hate change and tend to overact to it. Be the person who people can vent to and be reassured that the situation will improve. Our positive outlook will help the team stay together and people will look to you for more important issues.
One of the biggest things you don’t want to do is self-appoint yourself as the heir apparent. No one wants you to be a “grave robber”- waiting for your opportunity to advance during a time of mourning. You need to state your desire to be the next leader, but not in a sneaky or grandiose way.
Being a leader is earned, take the time to invest in yourself and your team and people will see you as the next leader whenever the old one is traded, released or goes somewhere else.