A change in leadership can be difficult, especially when it is unexpected. In most cases, when a leader needs to be replaced their departure usually comes at an expected time. Usually.
Toward the end of my junior year of high school my football team’s head coach passed away unexpectedly. The news shocked everybody. It not only impacted the football team, but the school and the whole town.
The school had two problems to deal with. The first was to handle the chaos and sadness that surrounded the school. The second was to try to replace a leader. The first problem can be solved with time. The second problem is a more difficult problem to solve.
The school had to replace not only the head football coach, but also a teacher and an administrator. He was the football team’s only head coach in school history.
In his last season, he took the school to the playoffs for the first time in school history. His team was becoming a team that worked hard to get better every day. He was instilling a winning culture. The program was trending upwards and then it all came to an unexpected stop.
The process of finding a new head coach took about two months. There were dozens of applications from all over the country. The athletic department decided to promote the assistant head coach.
As the new head coach he kept most of the coaching staff. He found good replacements for the coaches that did leave. However, he did not continue the culture change. Despite being the assistant head coach and knowing the plan, he did not continue it.
But that first year, it seemed like there was no plan or sense of direction. The team didn’t feel as motivated to play for him as they did for the previous head coach.
The difference between the two head coaches was the level of leadership and their emotional intelligence. The first head coach was able to motivate players in different ways. He was also able to establish a relationship with his players that was similar to a father-son relationship. Players wanted to play hard for him.
The second head coach yelled at his players like his predecessor did, but the yelling didn’t have the same effect. And he failed to establish close relationships with his players. The players didn’t have the same desire to play for him.
The team made the playoffs this past season, which was the new head coach’s third season as the head coach. This may mean a plan is in place and a culture of winning is being established. The only way to tell is to judge the program by its ability to sustain success.
Change is hard. Changing a culture under a new leader is even harder. It involves implementing a plan and establishing a culture. Both of these things are easier said than done. But it all starts with having the correct person in charge.