In my professional career, I’ve had many unique roles and jobs. As I think back on each of those jobs, the areas that were not as clear were my transition periods from one leadership level to the next.

One transition period stands out above the rest for me. My boss sat down with me and focused on how I should transition my behaviors and tendencies, rather than just reviewing roles. This simple exercise helped me clearly see and understand my boss’s leadership expectations of me in the next job and how he would come alongside me to ensure I succeeded. It also enabled me to take ownership of my responsibilities.

To thrive as a 21st-century leader of leaders, you must deliberately walk subordinates through a simple transition process discussing what tendencies or behaviors to Keep, Improve, Start, or Stop. Come along with me as I share the K-I-S-S Process of effective leadership transition.

For the benefit of this example, see yourself as the leader who has a subordinate going from an individual contributor to a manager role. The subordinate comes into your office, and you are prepared to have the transition discussion.


As with most one-on-one sessions with any subordinate, start with encouraging words and the job aspects where they have excelled. Be very specific and discuss how much you appreciate what they’ve done.  This sets up a discussion on what behaviors they need to KEEP for the next assignment.  If you prepare effectively, you can prioritize their strengths and how well these strengths will benefit them in their new managerial role.


Now you are ready to give the hard news of where they need to IMPROVE.  Ensure again that you are very specific.  Like my boss did with me, you can say something like, “Here are some behaviors you need to improve immediately, or else they will cause you to stumble in your leadership role.” Assure that you are with them on this journey.  Ask how you, as the leader, can best support them in improving certain behaviors.


This part is crucial and causes many new managers, supervisors, and leaders to “trip back down” into past activities.  Clearly explain what behaviors and tendencies they must STOP immediately because their managerial roles will no longer require them.  More importantly, their new subordinates should take over the behaviors they need to stop. This area is usually the hardest for new leaders. It will require your leadership to help them along and hold them accountable when they trip back down into old “individual contributor” tendencies outside of their new scope of responsibilities. 


The last part is the fun part for new enthusiastic leaders.  As the boss, you must be concise and have done your homework to ensure the new manager’s new behaviors and tendencies are clear.  These are behaviors the new manager does not possess nor has had to engage in the past.  As the leader, ensure you remind your subordinate how you will help and support them in growing and that it will take time to develop the new skills required.  Additionally, look for opportunities and situations where the new manager can exercise the new required behavior and tendencies. 

In military operations, the time of greatest risk for a unit is during “transition.”  A business has great risk when key leaders are in “transition,” sometimes even in multiple departments. Does your organization have a clear transition plan for managers, supervisors, and leaders?  How are you supporting subordinates in transition?  How are you setting up your subordinates to succeed in transition and not trip back down to old tendencies?  If you are unsure of where to begin, the method outlined above can get you started.