Why You Should Never Appoint Caretaker / Interim Leaders

Why You Should Never Appoint Caretaker / Interim Leaders

Transition is at the core of leadership. Leadership is about change and there can be no worthwhile change if there is no movement from the present into a well-planned future. Besides transitions affecting enterprises, leadership itself has to navigate a lot of transitions.

Enterprises face challenges at an abrupt departure of a key leaders or team members. Sometimes challenges arise when there is no one to fill in the gap at that moment. As part of well-meant interventions caretaker or interim leaders are appointed.

These leaders may have the heart for the cause of the enterprise but deemed not completely fit to occupy the post over a long period. In other instances the leaders themselves may have concerns about themselves, opting to momentarily fill the post or get a feel for it before making a concrete commitment.

Why You Should Never Appoint Caretaker / Interim Leaders

interim can keep the boat afloat for now, but can harm the enterprise in the long term

|| image by loop_oh | cc

Here’s why you should never appoint caretaker / interim leaders:



Caretaker or interim leaders are generally appointed for a short period. Though they may have the long-term in mind, they are going to act for the interim. Caretaker leaders’ focus is keeping the boat afloat for the short-term. Caretakers, that is what they are. While interim leaders may keep the boat afloat, there have great potential of crippling the enterprise in the long-term.

caretaker leadership can rob your enterprise of innovation that needs to be sustained beyond its tenure [Tweet this]

Take Over

Responsible leadership is about ensuring that core operations are sustained. The permanent leaders who succeed interim leaders generally see the actions of their predecessor as temporary.

Thus they may not see any need in taking seriously and or sustaining some the decisions and systems implemented by their predecessors.



Interim leaders often have limited authority; they have limitations on calls they can make. Thus, they are somewhat regarded as mere figureheads.They are seen a lesser leaders. While they may command respect of those they lead, there are undertones of that they don’t measure up, hence their appointment as interim.

This can set a bad precedence as far as respect of their function when a more permanent leader takes over. Respect in the sense of appreciating what their function is supposed to fulfill.

To Consider

If you really have to appoint an interim leader, make sure they have authority over issues that affect the long-term. Be clear about what their role is and make it clear to the rest of your enterprise.

Guard the ‘sanctity’ of their function for the sake of either the interim leader in the event they assume their post permanently or for their permanent successor.


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What what you add? I really would love your to hear your thoughts…



Author: Blessing Mpofu

just a guy changing the world

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  • Elsie Goosen

    Too true Blessing. Every enterprise should have more than one person who can step into a gap. People stepping into a gap must have your vision and values. They should also work in team with everyone else in achieving short and long term goals. Sounds easy but it is often not.

    • “having vision to achieve short and long terms goals”… everyone being on the same page in that regard contributes immensely to avoiding some of the challenges of interim leaders. thanks for stopping by…

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  • Michael Mpofu

    Well put. I think the challenge arises when leaders genuinely experience unforeseen circumstances. Then what? I ship with a caretaker captain is better than one without. I think if the team isn’t able to see beyond the fact that there is a caretaker leader then perhaps the leader who left it as is didn’t do his job well enough, because after all, whatever you are building needs to be bigger than the leader! But I agree, that we need to avoid, “quick-fix” interim solutions to a long-term goal. well said.

    • re: “ship with a caretaker captain is better than one without – a very strong point…” noted. in appointing interim leaders, leadership at large needs to be absolutely sure that is the only way to go… perhaps challenge is now how to make it work… more consideration to go to that… perhaps a follow up post is in order. thanks for great input.

  • Very true! A temporary fix is often followed by a not-so-temporary new problem. The high road isn’t easy… but its the high road.

    • true, interim leaders are sometimes regarded as a temporary fix and their work, though having longer term impact treated as temporary as well… thx for stopping by ;-)