Why newly appointed leaders fail?

I had the possibility to closely observe several types of leaders/managers over the past 10+ years since I am working. Some of them were reserved and experienced with high standards while the others were newly appointed struggling in their roles. What could be the cause that around 60% of the newly appointed leaders underperform during the first 2 years? How HR professionals and executives can help the newly appointed ones to learn their new roles and be confident as quickly as possible?


Most of the newly appointed leaders are excreted from existing members of a team. They don’t have an easy job as many conditions are changing around them: their peers become their subordinates, they should overlook their work, give feedback and lead them back to the right path that leads to successful closure of projects. It is their responsibility to ensure that their team works and their team members can reach their goals with combined force. On the top of that they have to meet all the expectations raised towards to them by their bosses and all the other leaders while standing in the spotlight.

What most of the newly appointed leaders lack is not their skills but mentors and trainings. They would need much more help and guidance than they usually receive.

How can they avoid downfall beside seeking trainings/courses/mentors/coaches?

  •  Mapping bad habits: explore the mechanics of their work (with the help of a coach/mentor) and determine how they should change it in order to excel in their job. Having a distinction between individual contributors and team leaders at corporate level could be helpful as well.
  • Necessity of changes: it is inevitable to understand that they need to change simply because their new roles are coming with new types of tasks and responsibilities.
  • 2/1 rule – two ears for listening one mouth to talk: asking the right questions and listen closely can help to see what matters most in the new job and to learn the organization as quickly as possible (if the leader is coming from outside the company).
  • Early wins like turning around a failing project or a team effort that raises the spirits and profits as well can build confidence and credibility.
  • Learning from other leaders especially from those whose areas are related to their own. It is important to learn what is forbidden, what are the norms for leadership and asking for their advices generically and specifically.
  • Understanding underlying issues before starting to “fix” things.  New leaders should see samples of their team members work, find out how the effectiveness of their area could be improved, visit key vendors and external partners and learn from their perspective as well.
  • Maintaining emotional balance and excercising clear-headed judgement – the subordinates of the newly appointed leaders are watching closely.
  • Effective communication: open and collaborative communication can help to break down the barriers between the new leader and the team members.
  • Vision: how it felt and seen when the group fulfilled its mission and objectives set by the new leader. The vision must be inspiring for the key team members in order to ensure its effectiveness.
  • Advice network: new leaders should avoid falling into the trap of “I know everything” and the fear from vulnerability. They should build a well balanced network of individuals within and outside the group from whom they could ask advices and learn constantly.

There is a smart game that could be especially useful in these kind of situations: Fligby. This serious online game does not just measure 29 leadership skills, but also helps in the development of those that are not the newly appointed leader’s strengths.