The Ghosts Of My Predecessors

I’ve served in numerous and diverse leadership roles. In some instances I took over from someone and was not the pioneer. I was thinking about the ghosts of my predecessors in those times. Yeah, their ghosts! My predecessors’ ghosts manifested in different ways. Let me give you a few:

illustration: gamillos, flickr
  • Not that way!: my predecessors’ ghosts appeared in the form of refusal to change the way something was done. This was because because the leader before had made one of the ways of doing things THE only way. This would be probably one of the reasons he may have been removed (if he was removed). When process is glorified at the expense of purpose we risk becoming busy but unproductive. Anyway, this manifestation of the previous leader’s ghost made methods ‘sacred’. When methods or systems become sacred progress and innovation is either stalled or completely aborted.
  • Processes & Direction: this was of the most blatant manifestations… There are times when the leader before engaged process or chartered a course that couldn’t just stop. This was where I had to be caretaker of systems I did not like, and sometimes disagreed with completely! The main reason for continuing them was that it would do great harm to the team or organization to abruptly stop or change course. When you take over as leader you are not always going to be able to implement immediate change.
  • Important: one of the other manifestations of the ghost was values. From experience as leader and follower I’ve learnt this: leaders have different values. This is not bad per se. What it means is that different things are important to different leaders. One of the manifestations I’ve encountered is conflict in values with my inherited team. Because things somehow keep moving as you step in as the new leader… The inherited team will operate in what they always have till you show them different.
  • It was your fault he left!: My predecessors have haunted me through the inherited team when I’ve been seen as the reason they left. This was in instances where there was a strong tie between the leader and the team. Sometimes done unconsciously. This made me an enemy of the team I was to lead, making my duties more difficult. “Because you got rid of our leader you have something against us”, is the attitude that was often communicated. The hostility came in different ways…
  • Problems!: This is one of the main reasons why some leaders abandon ship. Either they’ve encountered or created problems they feel they cannot solve. Perhaps they were just not willing to try to solve them. This manifestation of the ghost has sometimes been hidden from me at the interview stages and only realized it when I was at the helm.

More on how I’ve learnt to deal with these ‘ghosts’ and others later… Do you have something you’d like to share?

Author: Blessing Mpofu

just a guy changing the world

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