Travis Anderson Guest Post
Thomas N. Gilmore’s article, Effective Leadership during Organizational Transitions explains that leaders of organizations and programs need to pay attention to the seams between subordinate roles, and the overall strategic relationship of the business unit to its surroundings.
Gilmore suggests that the organizational chart be drawn so that the leader is seen as a supervisor of the seams between people.
This is a difficult concept, as one cannot call a seam into an office to give a status update. This is an analogy:
Remember the story of the drunk who lost his keys and was found under a streetlight looking for them. Someone offers to help you search. ?Where did they go? The drunk replied,?Down the alley. The helper asks,?Why are they looking for them here? ?The drunk replies,?Because there is more light here. ?
This analogy demonstrates that an effective leader must venture out of their comfort zone to be successful. This can leave the leader feeling at the edges of one’s authority and competence. Effective leaders are always willing to work in areas of uncertainty and vagueness. These are the seams in an organization.
Gilmore states that leadership’s core task involves managing uncertainty and adapting to rapidly changing and shifting environments. Leadership will also be a key component of teams, which are more resilient and adaptable to support the organization when issues arise across tasks.
How can leaders keep their teams close during times of rapid change? And how can they acknowledge that careerism and restructuring, changes in government regulation and technology all create rapid turnover of industry leaders?
In a large health care organization, for example, there were six Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), of which two were interim, three Chief Financial Officers(CFOs), six Directors of Nursing (of which two were interim), three Chief Operating Officerss (COOs), three Chief Financial Officerss (CFOs), three Chief Financial Officerss (CFOs), three Chief Operating Officerss (COOs), four Vice-Presidents for Health Affairs, seven human resource executives, three legal counsels, and six public information officers. This is a more extreme case than the author intended, but it does get the point across (Gilmore 1990, p.136).
Program managers and organizations must realize that leadership changes can have a ripple effect on the organization’s structure. The possibility and danger of a leadership transition is both a blessing and a curse. They offer an opportunity for the organization to gain new perspectives from both the newcomer and the existing staff who are eager to make a fresh start. They can also be a danger to the company if the team is not able to understand their fragility (Gilmore,1990 p.137).
Many challenges face new leaders when they arrive at an organization or program. Gilmore talked about the transition stages for a new leader in order to maximize the benefits of a leadership change, and minimize disruption. The first stage is for new leaders to connect to the system they have just joined. Many new leaders tell stories about their former organizations, which shows that they are still connected to the former. The second stage is to build a team. This involves identifying the key skills and competencies of people, and then determining the necessary changes to make them more effective. This means that some people will be let go and new members will be hired. For a new leader to succeed, the initial stages are crucial. This is why it is important to do your research before you move on to the more difficult tasks.

The nuts and bolts for long-term transformation are the key to success over time.